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Intensification Strategies
for Questions and Negatives

We have already spoken about intensifying adverbs and modifiers and I hope you’re still applying this in practice. Here we shall continue with intensification strategies, this time for questions and negatives.

Before we go into the mechanics of this, let’s talk a little bit about ‘wh-‘ questions. A ‘wh-‘ question is just that – a question asking for some information about something.

However, like any question (or statement, for that reason), we also have the emotive aspect of it, meaning the emotion the speaker/writer is adding to the message. It is this aspect we are intensifying, when we use the following tactics, either in speech or in writing.

You can intensify the emotive factor of a ‘wh-‘ question by adding ‘ever’, ‘on earth’, etc. to the ‘wh-‘ word:

“What ever were you thinking about?” [Not ‘whatever’ in this case]
“Why on earth were you late?”
“Who in heaven’s name does he think he is?”

NOTE: When you see ‘ever’ as part of the word, as in ‘whoever’, ‘whatever’, ‘wherever’, they mean something else – they are not used as intensifiers. Having said this, you should also note that ‘why ever’ is always spelled as two words.

For intensifying a negative sentence you can add ‘at all’ either after the negative word, or at the end of the sentence:

“He said nothing at all about his plan to trick you.”
“She didn’t call me at all.”

A bit’, ‘by any means’ and ‘whatever’ can be used as negative intensifiers:

“He wasn’t a bit apologetic.”
“She has no excuse whatever to do that.”

Other words, can also take intensifying undertones, especially used sarcastically or jokingly, usually in informal speech and writing:

“I didn’t sleep a wink.”
“He didn’t bring a thing to the dinner.” (=anything at all)

Adding ‘not’ to a noun phrase can be used for emphasis:

“He spoke not a word about his conviction.”

As we mentioned before, to add emphasis to a part of the sentence, we can move it to the beginning of the sentence and make some slight adjustments to the rest of the sentence. Equally, we can place the negative element at the beginning of the sentence, as follows:

Not a penny of his money did he spend.”
Never have I seen such clumsy people.”

Now, if you remember the term ‘operator’ (being the auxiliary or helping verb forming the verb phrase), you shall notice that this is placed before the subject (‘did’ and ‘have’).

For ‘can’t’ or ‘couldn’t’, we can use ‘possibly’ as an intensifier:

“We can’t possibly carry on like this!”

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