Using Intensifiers and Downtoners in Spoken English

Intensifiers and downtoners are fun to cover because we use them in many different situations, so it’s fairly easy to create examples and practice tasks. But since I feel they’re used a lot more in conversation, I chose to limit my examples to spoken contexts in my latest YouTube lesson.

Another decision I had to make was how informal I wanted to get. I decided to include some of the odder, but still common intensifiers we’ve come up with in American English: crazy, stupid, and wicked. I gave credit to my 15-year-old son who reminded me about “stupid good.” I also briefly mentioned our use of profanity, but my personal preference for substitutes like freakin‘.

My explanation is in-depth, but no one video can cover a topic from every angle. Students also need further practice. If you’d like to explore this topic more with your own learners, check out my Intensifiers and Downtoners_exercises.

I also recommend additional exposure to intensifiers and downtoners in real contexts.

  • YouGlish will provide many examples, including use of “crazy good.” Have students work in pairs to search for other combinations like “nice and clean” and “good and ready.”
  • GetYarn allows an interesting comparison of “awfully good” vs. “awful good” as well as “really good” vs. “real good.”
  • You can turn to song lyrics and use a search tool like FindMusicByLyrics. My curiosity led to to find songs with “utterly” and “totally and utterly.” Just remember that some song lyrics are explicit, so you can do a search in advance and find appropriate songs to share with your students.


Featured photo by wynpnt. Retrieved from

Related post: Gradable and non-gradable adjectives with a PDF handout

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Madan Mohan Gupta says:

    The YouTube video is freaking awesome. I also didn’t know about wicked being used in this way. So, Now I can say that this lesson is WICKED GOOD.
    I really enjoy those little exercises that you include in video lesson.
    I’m extremely grateful that I’m following this blog, because after watching the YT video I used exercise attached here to understand this concept more deeply, Cherry on Top. 😊😊😊 However, I rather need to practice using them more frequently.
    Extremely nice and Stupid Good 🙂

    (# I’m sorry Ma’am but stupid good still sound funny to me 😅😅, and I’m in dilemma to use or not, Because people here might focus only on stupid 😅 and I’ll be in a fuss. I’ll understand if someone say it but I’m not going to use it.)

    1. Hi Madan. I’m very happy you liked the new video. You’ll recall that I didn’t even know about “wicked” meaning “very” until I moved to Massachusetts. I never heard that in my home state of Pennsylvania. I still don’t use “wicked” that way, and I don’t encourage my children to either. We only use it when we’re joking around. You’re right to be cautious about “stupid good.” It’s very informal, and I bet those from an older generation will also find it odd. I can’t even say if it’s used outside the U.S. Be ready to understand it, but be reluctant to use it. If you use YouGlish to hear the contexts in which some people use it, it will help you understand when it could be acceptable.

      I’m even happier that you took the time to look at my handout with exercises in this blog post. There’s always more to cover, and the handout helps reinforce and extend the learning beyond the YouTube video.

      You used all the intensifiers and downtoners correctly:
      freaking awesome
      wicked good
      really enjoy
      extremely grateful
      more deeply
      more frequently
      extremely nice
      stupid good
      – – As for “rather,” I’d suggest saying: However, I still need to practice them a bit more.

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