I’m writing this on a train to Yorkshire (an East Midlands Railway train, train fans!). The announcer chap said that if we saw anything suspicious, we should contact a member of ‘the railway’s very dedicated police force’, the British Transport Police. Oh how I laughed. See, he’s taken a standard phrase ‘dedicated police force’, which contains the word ‘dedicated’, meaning they work specifically for the railways, are dedicated just to them. But he’s used that same word, ‘dedicated’, in a different way, meaning that they care about their job, they are dedicated workers.
But - and this is important - all he did was add ‘very’. He did nothing else at all to alter the sentence. So how did I know that the meaning had changed? LINGUISTICS, people! In the standard phrase, ‘dedicated’ is a participle. It is shorthand for ‘the police force that is dedicated to the railway’ - it’s a form of the verb, in other words. And as a verb form, it can’t be modified by ‘very’. Things like ‘I’m very running’ or ‘I very work’ are not grammatical for the same reason. In the one he actually said, he used ‘very’. So the word ‘dedicated’ can’t be a participle. It must be an adjective, which is what ‘very’ can modify: ‘I’m very tired’, ‘I’m very clever’, ‘The very hungry caterpillar’, for example. And if ‘dedicated’ is an adjective, it no longer functions as the participle; it’s an attribute of the person it applies to, in this case the British Transport Police.
All that from a simple addition of ‘very’! Honestly you people, how are you not constantly as amazed as me at how cool language is?