top of page

Learn A Favorite Word of Native English Speakers – Literally!

Make it clear to others that you aren’t exaggerating your story by using this popular adverb.

The adverb “literally” is a simple and effective adverb that can communicate to someone that you are not exaggerating and that what you are saying is exactly true. This is useful because when people tell stories, it is common to exaggerate to make things sound more interesting than what really happened, but when you use the word “literally”, you are telling people that this is the truth.

For example, if someone is telling a story about doing exercise and says: “I was so tired that I couldn’t move my legs”, this is probably an exaggeration because even when your legs are extremely tired, you can still move them. Maybe it becomes harder to move your legs when they are tired, but you can still move them. The only time you cannot move your legs is if they are numb or if you are injured.

On the other hand, if you want to say that you are not exaggerating and for some reason, your legs became numb and wouldn’t move because you were so tired, you can say: “I was so tired that I literally couldn’t move my legs.” This makes it clear that you are not exaggerating and in this situation you seriously could not move your legs.

In the examples below, the speaker uses the word “literally” to clarify that the sentence is not an exaggeration and that it really happened.

  • When I saw my dog again, it literally jumped into my arms. – this means the dog truly did this

  • The movie was very boring. I literally fell asleep ten minutes after it started. – this really happened

  • She’s literally the nicest person I’ve ever met. – this is truly the nicest person

In the examples above, you can see that the adverb “literally” is placed before the verb, unless it’s the “be” verb in which case, it is after the verb. You can see the difference below:

  • The food was so spicy, I was literally crying while eating it.

  • I literally have no money with me. I spent all of it earlier.

One mistake that sometimes happens even with native speakers is using the word “literally” when something is not exactly true. People tend to use “literally” when they want to say something strong, but they forget that the meaning is that what you say has to be exactly true, so you cannot use it to just emphasize something. In the examples below, you can see how it is used correctly and incorrectly.

  • When they told me that I had won the lottery, I literally died. It was a huge shock. – incorrect

  • When they told me that I had won the lottery, I literally couldn’t speak. It was a huge shock. – correct

In the first example above, the person wants to say “I died” to emphasize how shocking the news was, but using “literally” in this case is incorrect because obviously the speaker did not truly die. On the other hand, the second example can be correct because it’s possible that someone cannot speak when they are in shock.

Practice

Find the situations below where you could add “literally” and add it into the sentence. Note that some sentences cannot use “literally” because they are exaggerations:

  1. The music was so loud that I couldn’t hear my friends speaking to me.

  2. It was so cold that my fingers turned to ice.

  3. The subway was extremely crowded. I couldn’t move.

  4. I love Hawaii. It’s heaven to me.

  5. My brother is a foot taller than me. I’m only five feet tall.

  6. Another woman and I wore the same type of dress to the wedding. We found out that we bought it at the same store, too!

  7. She is busy 24/7! She never sits down.

  8. The smoke was so dark and thick that you couldn’t see anything in front of you.

  9. She’s too thin. She’s just bones!

  10. We went to the beach last week and I think I took half the beach with me when I left. I still have sand in my ears!

Answers

  1. The music was so loud that I literally couldn’t hear my friends speaking to me.

  2. It was so cold that my fingers turned to ice. (exaggeration – your hands cannot become ice)

  3. The subway was extremely crowded. I literally couldn’t move.

  4. I love Hawaii. It’s heaven to me. (exaggeration – Hawaii cannot be heaven)

  5. My brother is literally a foot taller than me. I’m (literally) only five feet tall.

  6. Another woman and I literally wore the same type of dress to the wedding. We found out that we (literally) bought it at the same store, too!

  7. She is busy 24/7! She never sits down. (exaggeration – people have to sit down at some time)

  8. The smoke was so dark and thick that you literally couldn’t see anything in front of you.

  9. She’s too thin. She’s just bones! (exaggeration – a living person cannot be only bones like a skeleton)

  10. We went to the beach last week and I think I took half the beach with me when I left. I literally still have sand in my ears!

1 komentář


I literally love theses lessons

To se mi líbí
bottom of page