Do you really need that ‘very’?

Certain potent adjectives actually diminish in power with the addition of this all-too-common modifier.

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A horrific accident occurred in my part of the country recently.

A truck carrying logs shed its load as it approached a bridge occupied by a group of construction workers. Men were trapped under logs, bleeding from their injuries, writhing in the pain of broken bones; several were killed. First responders rushed about, tending the injured.

On this hellish scene, someone commented, “It was very chaotic.”

As both adjective and adverb, the word very is appropriate in many contexts, but when prefixed to a strong word like chaotic, it weakens the expression.

Very has its place in numerous useful idioms:

That lamp is the very thing for my new end table!

Private car ownership is all very well, but billions of cars take a toll on the planet.

—Do you like me? —Very much so!

This is the very last size six they have in the store.

—Private Jones, bring me my rifle. —Very good, Sir!

A phrase associated with Elvis Presley is, “Thank you very much.”

The word very derives from Latin verus, “true,” and in some contexts it can still mean true in English:

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