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Hi GE members,

I would like to know whether VERY WONDERFUL is correct in the following sentence:

The audience was carried away by the very wonderful performance of the soloist.

As I know, wonderful is extremely good, so it is an absolute adjective. Therefore, VERY can't be used with WONDERFUL. Am I right?

Besides, the audience can be used with both singular/plural verbs. So the verb WAS in the above sentence is grammatically correct, isn't it?

By the way, I did a little search in the New York Times with the phrase "very wonderful" and found only 1420 results from its archives since 1851.
If "very wonderful" is correct, then I wonder what is wrong with the sentence.

Many thanks.
Last edited {1}
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Hi Tony,

The word 'very' is not a particularly good/elegant choice of words in that sentence, but I will stop short of saying you 'cannot' use it. Instead, I will say that a better word should be found -- something such as 'astonishingly' perhaps.

I suppose the use of 'carried away' is OK, but again there are other words that might be more elegant and/or more appropriate. Personally, I tend to use 'carried away' most often with a sense of 'overly excited' rather than just 'greatly excited'.

As for the singular/plural issue, I would NOT expect an American to use a plural verb with 'audience' in that sentence, but would not be surprised to see a Brit do so. I think you might see either the singular OR the plural form of the verb from a Brit. Note also that there isn't anything about the sentence that specifically suggests 'individuals' rather than the group as a whole. So, in a nutshell, the use of the singular form of the verb is just fine in my book.
Last edited by Amy, Co-Moderator
Thank you very much, Amy.

This sentence is a test item which asks to identify the incorrect English usage among the four choices:

The audience was (A) carried away (B) by the very wonderful (C) performance of the soloist (D).

I looked up the word audience in Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary and saw that both singular/plural verbs can be used. Therefore, A can't be a mistake. carried away is OK too, although, as you said, it sounds more like " overly excited" than "greatly excited". Hence, B is not a mistake, either. I don't think there's anything wrong with the soloist. As a result, I can't think of anything else except C. The only explanation I can think of is the use of very after wonderful.

I don't know the answer key for this. That's why I am confused.

What do you think again about this issue, Amy?

Many thanks.
Last edited by tonyck
If I had to pick something out (from those four choices) as "incorrect", I would choose (c). Still, as I said before, I am reluctant to state unequivocally that it's 'wrong'. I would not expect to find 'very wonderful' used in formal English. And I think it could be worded much better -- even in more informal English.

I think of adjectives such as 'dead', 'perfect', pregnant', 'unanimous', 'unique' and 'stationary' as being absolute. In other words, they are words that don't use comparative and superlative forms. However, this 'absolute adjective' rule is not ironclad.

For example, you'll hear things such as 'She's very pregnant' in everyday English to mean that her pregnancy is at an advanced stage and thus it is also quite obvious that she is pregnant.

Another example might be this: If I go with friends to a party, but the party is dull, my friends and I might leave, giving as a reason that the party was dead. If we then go to a different party and find that there is even less action going on there, then I may well say that the second party was 'even deader' than the first one was.

Hi Tony,

I'm an English teacher but I'm not a native speaker of the language. I remember  when I was taking my CELTA courses in San Francisco in 2016, one day our teacher said we could not put "very" before an extreme adjective, i.e., "very amazing" would, according to him, be incorrect, even though I had heard it many times myself (and I did tell him about it but he believed I was mistaken!!!). The coursebook "American English Fille" says we cannot bring "very" before an extreme adjective but again I'm watching The Sopranos and I see Tony's wife saying "It's very very wonderful!" (S01,E01) So, I think it's all about grammar vs everyday language: everyday we say things that may not be grammatically correct but they are still in a way accepted maybe because it happens too many times or maybe for other reasons.

Last edited by Behzad

Hi, Behzad, and welcome to the Grammar Exchange.

The post you responded to dates from more than ten years ago. Anyway, I'd like to make a comment on what you wrote. "Extreme" adjectives are usually referred to as non-gradable adjectives in grammar, and I agree that, in general, they don't take intensifiers indicating their degree. However, they are sometimes reinforced or emphasized by adverbs like "really" or "truly."

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