In the sentence, "I am soaking wet", 'I' is the noun, 'am' is the verb, 'wet' is the adjective, and 'soaking' describes the extent of 'wet'. So would 'soaking' be classified as a "helping adjective", so to speak? Or just an adjective? Or is there a better term to describe this?

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    If you require that the modifier of an adjective be an adverb, then, since wet is an adjective modified by soaking, you could call it an adverb. Or you could call it a quantifier. Or you could call it an intensifier. Or you could just call it another adjective, part of a fixed idiomatic phrase soaking wet. It's not terribly important what name you use; nobody cares and nobody agrees anyway. Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 2:08
  • "Soaking" derives from the participle of the verb "soak", and is used here as an adjective (a participial adjective, to be precise) to modify "wet".
    – BillJ
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 7:40
  • Up-voted. A good question which brought forth a good answer (comment) from Professor Lawler.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 9:01
  • @BillJ If soaking is an adjective, wouldn’t that imply that wet is a noun here? I know you can go out in the wet, where it’s a noun; Dickens wrote “Make haste in out of the wet, Tom.” But I would have thought it a predicate adjective in the sample sentence.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 10:11
  • @tchrist see link
    – BillJ
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 17:19

1 Answer 1


One can be barely, slightly, moderately, soaking, and dripping wet, all describing a degree of wetness. As the -ly suffixes on the first three in the list suggest, this is the task of adverbs, even if by form, soaking and dripping are present participles without verbal force.

This is hardly an unusual construction: burning/scorching/piping hot, freezing cold, raving/barking mad, but deafeningly loud, exceedingly hungry.

  • Hmmm, were we in a sane world, we would spell the adverb as "soakingly". I like that your answer kind'a shows that.
    – thorr18
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 16:05
  • @thorr18 Why? We don't spell adverbs soonly or oftenly or fastly or therely. The modernist -ly obsession is unhistorical. Present particles can be adverbs without cumbersome decorations.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 18:07
  • I am unaware of any obsession with ly. My opinion was just based on a feeling, not a trend.
    – thorr18
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 21:41
  • Also, I wouldn't feel it looked weird if people spelled it with a hyphen. I would have the same feeling with fast-wet and fastly wet, were that a thing.
    – thorr18
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 21:44
  • After years of getting rid of excess hyphens they're now turning up in all sorts of inappropriate places. Tossing one between an adverb and the adjective it modifies makes no sense, though Chicago now demands a bright-blue dress for some reason.
    – KarlG
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 9:56

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