Archive for July 19, 2011

grammatical word: pretty

Today, I’d like to write about the word “pretty”, but not the adjective. This way of using “pretty” is put in front of other adjectives or adverbs, as in “pretty good” or “pretty quickly”. Many of my students think this is the same as “very”, but it’s not. The word “pretty” indicates that something is slightly weaker than the regular adjective or adverb. Therefore, the scale is: very good -> good -> pretty good. Let me give you some examples:

The movie was pretty good, but it could have been better.

A: Can you run fast?

B: Well, I can run pretty fast, although I was much faster when I was younger.

The color my wife chose to paint our house is pretty nice, but I would have preferred a darker color.

A: Is living downtown expensive?

B: Well, it can be pretty expensive, but some things don’t cost so much.

When we use “pretty” in this way, we usually stress “pretty” with our voices.

However, “pretty” can also be used in another way that means something is equal to or slightly stronger than the adjective or adverb. In these cases, we usually stress the adjective or adverb itself with our voices. When we use “pretty” in this way, it often indicates that we were surprised by what we experienced. For example:

I heard Tony play the piano the other day, and he was actually pretty good.

I know I look weak, but I’m actually pretty strong.

It can get pretty loud in this neighborhood because there are a lot of kids living around here.

A: I ran into my ex-girlfriend when I was on a date with my new girlfriend.

B: That must have been pretty uncomfortable.

A: It was!

So, as I said before, the word “pretty” in these cases is much stronger than in the first set of examples.  However, it’s still not as strong as using “very” or “really”.

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