Is “scarcely” an intensifier?

That was the country he liked best, over there; those sandhills dwindling away into darkness. One could walk all day without meeting a soul. There was not a house scarcely, not a single village for miles on end.
(Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse)

Is scarcely an intensifier in the sentence, meaning “at all”?


This usage is odd; ordinarily we say there was scarcely a house, meaning “even one house was rare”. Not … scarcely is in effect an almost-double negative. OED 1 records this use as a “pleonastic negative”, but not later than the 18th century.

Woolf slips here, but it’s pretty clear what she means. I think you read it correctly as an intensifier, but the meaning is not “there were no houses at all” but “there were almost no houses at all”.

Source : Link , Question Author : Listenever , Answer Author : StoneyB on hiatus

Leave a Comment