You seem scary happy.

That house is scary big.

Not sure if I am over-reading it, but it seems to me here "scary" functions in the capacity of adverb modifying the adjective that follows: happy in a scary way; big in a scary way. That they don't follow the normal adjective ordering also indicates they are not coordinate adjectives.

So are they accumulative adjectives? I am not so sure. I am trying to think of other similar examples, but haven't found any off the top of my head.

  • 1
    Does this answer your question? As quick as we can? Jun 15, 2020 at 7:28
  • It's a flat adverb. Jun 15, 2020 at 7:28
  • @JasonBassford Seems to be. Thanks for that. But I hope to get an answer that talks more in-depth about such adverbs in predicatives. I haven't seen and can't at the moment think of similar predicative examples with other flat adverbs, so a detailed answer with some examples would be good.
    – Eddie Kal
    Jun 15, 2020 at 7:41

2 Answers 2


At the risk of committing an opinion, I should suggest this. Apart from certain adjectives which are recognised as also having a standard adverbial use (‘fast’, for example), many adjectives are used in that way. The example you give is one among many. under the entry ‘scary’, dictionaries do not offer a separate entry under the grammatical category ‘adverb’. So it is not a recognised standard use of the word. In that sense, it is not standard British English, or, I think, in US English, though my impression is that it is more widespread ‘over there’ than ‘over here’.

But it is possible that at some future time it will become standard. That is only a prediction, based on the fact that, love the adverbial use of ‘scary’ or hate it, the intended meaning is glaring obvious.

One, at least, has made it into Merriam Webster: real

adverb Collegiate Definition (Entry 2 of 5) chiefly US, informal : VERY, REALLY —used as an intensifier It was a good furnace all last winter, they didn't have a single problem with it: it ran real quiet … — Garrison Keillor

… the magazine isn't real sure who its readers are … — Tom Carson

I could use the adjective ‘big’ as an adverb.

During my stay in Las Vegas, I won real big at roulette.

That use of ‘big’ is common enough to have made it into Merriam Webster.

adverb Collegiate Definition (Entry 2 of 3) 1
: to a large amount or extent won big

: on a large scale think big
: in a loud or declamatory manneralso : in a boasting manner talk big

  • Shoot, I meant to upvote this answer, but I accidentally fat-fingered the other button on my phone. Now that the vote is locked in, I am trying to change it. I just suggested some minor changes to your answer. I will be able to change my vote when you answer is edited. Also, if you could add some examples it'd be helpful.
    – Eddie Kal
    Jun 15, 2020 at 16:19
  • @EddieKal I do not seem to be able to find your suggestions, or what you think I should change/add. Could dry again, please?
    – Tuffy
    Jun 15, 2020 at 17:53
  • Can you see this? english.stackexchange.com/review/suggested-edits/372827 I suggested modifying doubles spaces between sentences and some minor rewording. I was wondering if you'd add some more examples. "Glaring obvious" is a good one and I took notice of it. More examples would definitely help clarify the issue for me.
    – Eddie Kal
    Jun 15, 2020 at 18:01
  • @EddieKal You mean you think there should only be a single space between sentences? I and, I think, many others, follow the two space convention after full stops and colons. Also, how would more examples help? What I am saying is that this type of use, being non-standard, are absent from dictionaries. So finding real examples is not possible, and my inventing more examples (“I was awful late to the meeting” or “on my trip to Las Vegas I won real big”) merely illustrates that there are one or two that are perhaps on there way to beginning standard US English. ‘Real’ has actually made it!
    – Tuffy
    Jun 15, 2020 at 18:25
  • I didn't know two-spacing was still a thing. Maybe it's dogmatic of me to always follow modern American writing customs (mostly APA). As editors at the Chicago Manual of Style say, major U.S. style guides all follow the one-space rule, and two-spacing seems to be a hangover from the 19th/early 20th century typewriter eras. chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/data/faq/topics/… cmosshoptalk.com/2020/03/24/one-space-or-two To each their own and I fully respect that. But SE's formatting doesn't support two-spacing, as you might have noticed.
    – Eddie Kal
    Jun 15, 2020 at 18:54

It's heavily idiomatic, to such an extent that it strays into the category of slang.

But you are correct, "scary" directly qualifies the adjective, so in this context it acts as an adverb.

For grammatical correctness, the word "scarily" (or better: "frighteningly") would be used -- but there is no intention to be grammatically accurate here, this comes across as children's prattle.

It literally means "You seem so happy it scares me" etc., but it is unlikely that is what the writer really means. It is probably just a teenage affectation, hyperbole for "very".

  • So yeah I know the meaning and that such phrases are idiomatic. I noticed it when I was saying "scary happy" to someone: I don't have the syntax figured out. This may be an oddball, but I still believe there should be a linguistic term/category for it.
    – Eddie Kal
    Jun 15, 2020 at 7:07
  • Yes, there is, I gave it in my answer, it's an adverb. Jun 15, 2020 at 7:09
  • Fair enough. Makes sense. Thanks!
    – Eddie Kal
    Jun 15, 2020 at 7:10

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