As far as I understand it a present participle used like the one in the example ould be functionally an adjective

The barking dog.

I am wondering about intensifying words like "freaking" or "flipping" or "god damn"

Take the flippin' train.

To me, they don't convey very much about the noun but rather something about the speakers thoughts that go beyond the statement. As such they feel just the same as their adverb-instances

Just freaking go.

Seeing that "freaking" does not have the usual "-ly" ending, I have the following questions.

  • Is the first use really an adjective?
  • Are intensifying words categorized totally disregarding their semantic function?
  • What are they?
  • What are they in combination with verbs?
  • If adverb, why not "-ly".
  • 1
    They're all adjectives, still. Only they're used rather loosely, mostly as non-sense fillers or bland intensifiers (intensifiers without an intensifying sense in themselves). There's neither syntactical nor semantic difference in these structures from The barking dog.
    – Kris
    May 19, 2014 at 13:46
  • @Kris.. any literature backup? Because without it I cannot agree that there is no semantic difference. "Barking" is what the dog does, "freaking" is "flippin'" is what I think about the discussion.
    – Emanuel
    May 19, 2014 at 13:51
  • Check out usage examples in literature.
    – Kris
    May 19, 2014 at 13:53
  • 2
    It makes no sense to class 'freaking' here as an adjective. May 19, 2014 at 14:13
  • Why would people often think adverbs have to take -ly? If you dig deep, you’ll see that that’s unlikely to the point of being silly.
    – tchrist
    May 19, 2014 at 18:12

1 Answer 1


Yes, slang, profanity, and this sort of muted or pseudo-profanity don't necessarily follow the conventional rules of grammar.

When these sort of words are used as adjectives, they are at least grammatically consistent. If we assume that "to freak" is a verb that presumably means something bad or unpleasant, then, "Make your freaking dog stop barking" makes some sense: the speaker want to express that the dog is doing something unpleasant, so if "to freak" is bad, then describing the dog as a "freaking dog" means he is doing something bad. Of course when taken more literally, it still doesn't make much sense. I presume when people say "to freak" they are using that as a euphemism for another word that begins and ends with the same letters and that refers to sexual activity, and the dog in question is probably not engaging in sex. The train but surely is not.

As an adverb -- "Just freaking go", it makes no grammatical sense. You could say, "Just go freakingly", but what does that actually mean? Sometimes people say, "Go freak yourself", which again is unlikely to resolve the immediate issue or be physically possible, but at least is grammatically coherent.

Of course we don't normally expect insults and profanity to make literal sense. They're just words added to a sentence to express anger or dislike, or to establish yourself as one of the cool people who use such words. The f-word, in particular, rarely makes sense in context if interpreted literally.

Most slang words, whether mild or vulgar, are not being used for their literal meaning, but rather are used to mean either "bad" or "good". There are probably dozens or hundreds of slang words in use at any given time that all mean "bad" or "good", from "groovy" to "cool" to "phat", etc.

  • How are those sentences different from The barking dog? I could as well have said The freaking dog or The stupid dog in the same structure.
    – Kris
    May 19, 2014 at 13:47
  • Thanks for our answer. I suppose that there must be some consenus as to what "god damn" or "freaking" in front of a noun is. I was more interested in that, than in how much sense it makes. Do you have any literature or anything?
    – Emanuel
    May 19, 2014 at 13:49
  • 2
    If an approach like 'if we can fit an obvious Y there instead of the X it must be the same part of speech' is considered acceptable, we might as well stop analysing English. 'He marked the answer wrong' =/= 'He marked the answer wrongly'. In fact, 'Flying planes can be dangerous' may even be different from 'Flying planes can be dangerous', with one a (participial) adjective usage of 'flying' and one the gerund. Here, 'Take the flippin' train' is rather crudely emphasising the recommended mode of transport, or the recommended course of action. 'Just get on with it: take the train! ... May 19, 2014 at 14:21
  • 1
    ... This makes the 'flippin' an emphasising pragmatic marker; it's certainly neither an adjective (not "modifying" 'train' with any meaning of the word worth considering) nor an adverb. 'Barking' is a standard participial adjective here. 'Freaking' here is another pragmatic marker, slang emphasiser. May 19, 2014 at 14:26
  • 1
    We live in hope. Determiners were once classed as adjectives, until the craziness of lumping them with such dissimilar entities was generally accepted. Words next to a noun that don't really have any semantic connection with it are so peripheral I'd say they're outside. May 19, 2014 at 19:02

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