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The sentence that included the question was:

  • In addition, LEDs last far longer than standard bulbs.

Question: Which of the following alternatives to the bolded portion would NOT be acceptable?
F. considerably
G. a great deal
H. extremely
J. much

Answer: H

"Extremely" is an adverb (and not materially different in definition from the other answers available) and should be able to modify the adjective "longer", correct? I don't have an answer explanation, so it's unclear why they chose this. Can someone please explain why this is the answer? Thanks!

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  • Not all adverb-modifiers (which some don't include in the adverb class) can be used to modify comparative adverbs. 'Very' is an obvious example. / The same is true for adjective-modifiers. 'This is a considerably / much less expensive car.' but *'This is an extremely less expensive car.' / *'She is very brighter than her brother.' Aug 12 '17 at 22:31
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    There is no better answer than "just (be)cause" that's how English works. Aug 12 '17 at 23:20
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Extremely simply means very, and neither extremely nor very are used with comparatives, probably because English. I am sure no one would say *LEDs last very longer than standard bulbs.

Note that the modifier very cannot be used with comparatives.

  • She is much older than her husband. (NOT *She is very older than her husband.) (English Practice)

You can use very much to intensify comparatives, but not very on its own:

We use very much not very to add emphasis to comparative adverbs and adjectives:

  • Omah is very much better than Ian at basketball.
    Not: Omah is very better than Ian …
  • London is very much bigger than Naples.
    Not: London is very bigger than Naples. (Cambridge)

Now, if your next question is, Can we say extremely much longer, then?, I wouldn't go there... :-)

CaGEl records the same restriction in use of very:

Non-comparatives like young allow very, while comparative younger does not: it takes much, or (with submodification) very much, modifiers which are for the most part inadmissible with non-comparatives:

  • very/ *much young
  • much /*very younger (p. 548)

Quirk (A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language) also records

the restriction on premodification of adjectives and adverbs in the absolute and comparative degrees with very (see pp. 472-473).

So there you go. With extremely, it should be

In addition, LEDs last extremely long [not extremely longer than standard bulbs] .

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As Mr. William Strunk, Jr., said in 1918 in The Elements of Style, “Omit needless words.”

If you were to say “In addition, LEDs last extremely longer than standard light bulbs,” as you should not use the adverb “extremely” to modify the adjective “longer.”

The British Council says (see link): “We use adverbs to give more information about the verb.”

But perhaps the single best argument against saying “extremely longer” is that it elucidates nothing. “Far longer” elucidates even less. Why not merely say the LEDs last longer? To know how much longer LEDs last compared to conventional light bulbs, we have to first know how long conventional light bulbs last.

I think the ACT question is unhelpful at best and possibly extremely unfair.

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    But 'LEDs last much longer than normal GLC bulbs' does say more than 'LEDs last longer than normal GLC bulbs': the intensifier is not redundant. The question is 'Why is extremely not a suitable candidate?', not 'Is an intensifier redundant here?' Aug 4 at 10:25
  • And the much can be required and in statements and questions with how much longer.
    – DjinTonic
    Aug 4 at 12:59

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