emphatic very

blasita

Senior Member
Spain. Left six years ago
Hello everyone.

My question is about the emphatic 'very' in the following example sentences:

1. You speak German better than the Germans themselves/better than the very Germans.
2. The students themselves have stated that they would like you to stay/The very students have stated ..
.

Some native speakers say that they would not use it, but some would. Do they all sound natural to you? Can we use them interchangeably?

Thank you very much.
 
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I think I would be unlikely to use "very" in this way. It sound ever so slightly outdated or forced, so I might only use it if I'm writing in a flowery or poetic mode. If you do use it, use it sparingly and know that it may add an air of quaintness.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    In BE it is not that uncommon, e.g.
    A: "I've just been into town and seen the very coat I want... but it's £400!"
    B: "What! £400 for a coat! The very idea of spending £400 on a coat makes me ill!"

    "...and here, ladies and gentlemen, is the very tree under which Robin Hood died!"

    "So you now say the world is flat? But you are the very man who told me yesterday that it was round!"
     

    blasita

    Senior Member
    Spain. Left six years ago
    Thanks a lot, PaulQ.

    Would you use it in certain situations (as in your examples) or could you use it in the above examples, please?
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    I couldn't see 1. as being used. It is clearly insincere flattery

    2. is OK, as long as it is preceded by the proper context e.g., "Mr Chips, please! You cannot simply leave the school, it would not be the same, the staff are behind you, the governors are hoping you'll stay, the very students have stated that they would like you to stay."

    I couldn't possibly list all the uses of very as an intensive, either to denote the inclusion of something regarded as extreme or exceptional, or to emphasize the exceptional prominence of some ordinary thing or feature.

    Perhaps the commonest might be when describing coincidences, "He said, I've never seen a snake, and at that very moment, one dropped on his head!" (very time is used similarly.)
     

    Tracer

    Senior Member
    American English
    The use of "very" as in "that very day" is extremely rare in spoken American English. Come to think of it, I've never heard it used and I've never used it myself. What we do say is:

    "this very same day" "at that very same moment" In other words, we place "same" after "very". This is quite common.
     

    ribran

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Hi, Blasita. :)

    It's not man-on-the-street language, but it really doesn't seem all that unusual to me; however, I do find it odd in your examples, especially in your second one, where "very" makes the whole sentence seem too emphatic (of course, that may be appropriate to a particular context).
     

    Pertinax

    Senior Member
    BrE->AuE
    I use and hear the adjective "very" fairly often, but it is facing stiff competition from "just the" and "even the".

    E.g. in Paul's examples:
    I saw just the coat I want.
    Even the idea makes me ill.


    Blasita's examples would be idiomatic with "even the":
    the very Germans = even the Germans
    the very students = even the students

    But "very" is still an excellent choice if the noun is succeeded by a relative clause such as:
    You speak German better than the very Germans who laughed at your accent.
    The very students
    who criticized you have asked you to stay.
     

    blasita

    Senior Member
    Spain. Left six years ago
    Your comments are very helpful. Thank you very much for your help, Ribran, Pertinax and Tracer.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hello everyone.

    My question is about the emphatic 'very' in the following example sentences:

    1. You speak German better than the Germans themselves/better than the very Germans.
    2. The students themselves have stated that they would like you to stay/The very students have stated ..
    .

    Some native speakers say that they would not use it, but some would. Do they all sound natural to you? Can we use them interchangeably?

    Thank you very much.
    I think these sentences use the word very wrongly. "The very Germans" means "those particular identified Germans", not "Germans as a whole".
     

    blasita

    Senior Member
    Spain. Left six years ago
    I think these sentences use the word very wrongly. "The very Germans" means "those particular identified Germans", not "Germans as a whole".
    Oh, thank you. If I have understood correctly, you mean that only if you say 'the Germans themselves', I refer to 'Germans as a whole', but this is not the case if you use 'very'. So, is very not used this way to talk in general or is it true just in those examples, please?
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The very cat = the particular identified cat
    The very cats = the particular identified cats, not normally all cats. It may sometimes happen that the particular identified group of cats comprises all cats, but you would have to define the group in that unusual way.
     
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