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Can “real” be used as an adverb to describe an adjective?

Let me just ask you something real quick. Is my previous sentence wrong? Must the real part be "really"?

Some context: I am asking, because "real quick" sounds cool as hell and I see more and more people using it.

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    As the answers have noted, real quick is informal and more likely to be encountered in American than British contexts. In fact, standard British English requires: '(Let me just ask you something) really quickly.'
    – Shoe
    Jun 28, 2012 at 16:40
  • This is a real cool summary of the answers below. +1 :D
    – Vorac
    Jul 2, 2012 at 7:30

4 Answers 4

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It's not wrong, but it's informal.

The Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary has this to say:

Most handbooks consider the adverb real to be informal and more suitable to speech than writing. Our evidence shows these observations to be true in the main, but real is becoming more common in writing of an informal, conversational style. It is used as an intensifier only and is not interchangeable with really except in that use.

[link]

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    Oxford is compelled to add chiefly North American.
    – choster
    Jun 28, 2012 at 16:22
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As ruakh wrote, it's informal.

Is my previous sentence wrong? Must the real part be "really"?

This seems to be from American English, so the answer will depend on use. I have heard Americans use the word real like this. It would not necessarily be wrong for someone speaking American English. The word should be "really" for people speaking the British kind of English.

Which version to use will depend on which English you speak.

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  • Um, this gives a different perspective from the other answers up to now. But can you back up your statement about correct in American and wrong in English languages?
    – Vorac
    Jun 28, 2012 at 16:26
  • It's not so much about correct or wrong. It's about use. I'm in the UK and have not heard any English (or other British person) say real, in a sentence like that. I have heard it from Americans that I have met and seen on television.
    – Tristan
    Jun 28, 2012 at 16:52
  • Useful to know. You've got +1 from me. I accept the other answer, as it states sources, but yours adds to that a lot.
    – Vorac
    Jun 29, 2012 at 8:08
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No it's not wrong. It's an informal form of the adverb really and very used as a submodifier.

My tooth hurts real bad,

My tooth hurts really bad, and

My tooth hurts very bad

all mean the same thing.

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    My tooth hurts really badly. Not "bad".
    – user16269
    Jun 29, 2012 at 8:05
  • @David- you might be right. But the same usage is in wide use. Give it a google search and see for yourself.
    – Noah
    Jun 29, 2012 at 9:02
  • @david- I think you are right. It sounds strange to me as well. But I am not going to edit it unless you think it's necessary:)
    – Noah
    Jun 29, 2012 at 9:05
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    Sure, but when the whole thread is about the grammaticality of using an adjective in place of an adverb, I felt it behooved me to point out that both the original question and your example contain two such usages, not just one.
    – user16269
    Jun 29, 2012 at 9:09
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If you drop the real/really, you are left with:

A) Let me ask you something quick.  

which COULD be right if it were two separate thoughts:

B) Let me ask you something; quick!

but that doesn't seem to be what you mean. Sentence A should be:

C) Let me ask you something quickly.  

If we wanted to modify the adverb quickly, we would use another adverb, "really," so it should read:

D) Let me ask you something really quickly.

That is the most correct form. It's also the most formal. If you want to sound informal (arguably American), go with "real quick;" otherwise, really quickly.

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    Actually; let me ask you something quick could mean the same as let me ask you a quick question, which is unexceptionable by any standard. But yes, in British English the adverbs are really, and quickly Jun 28, 2012 at 21:01
  • "Let me ask you something. Quick." is a valid interpretation, and the only valid way to read the sentence as is. Also, "really" and "quickly" are adverbs in America too, so let's all stop toting our "British is better" for one minute.
    – Jeff
    Jun 29, 2012 at 12:41
  • How on earth can you say 'the only valid way' to interpret sentence A is to insert a full stop? And that real and quick can be adverbs in American English but not in British English is a fact, not a value judgement. Could you please read what I wrote, not what you expected? Jun 30, 2012 at 17:40

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