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Using Qualifiers


Techniques > Use of Language > Modifying Meaning > Using Qualifiers

Method | Example | Discussion | See also



A qualifier is a word or phrase that changed how absolute, certain or generalized a statement is.

Qualifiers include:

  • Qualifiers of quantity: some, most, all, none, etc.
  • Qualifiers of time: occasionally, sometimes, now and again, usually, always, never, etc.
  • Qualifiers of certainty: I guess, I think, I know, I am absolutely certain, etc.
  • Qualifiers of possibility: Could, may, likely, possible, probable, etc.
  • Qualifiers of necessity: Must, should, ought, required, have to, etc.
  • Qualifiers of relative quality: best, worst, finest, sharpest, heaviest, etc.

Use qualifiers to send signals. Also spot the qualifiers used by other people and either challenge these directly or use them as indicators of their deeper thoughts and thinking processes.

Absolute qualifiers

Use absolute qualifiers (all, none, always, never, etc.) when you want to appear decisive and when the other person to be certain about a decision.

Where others use absolute qualifiers, question how absolute the argument is, seeking even one counter-item that breaks their absolute position. This then opens the possibility of other such instances.

Relative qualifiers

Use relative qualifiers when you want to allow for real-world variation. Use them when you suspect the other person may challenge an absolute qualifier.

When others use relative qualifiers, dig further for details about how relative the qualifier is. Again, you can seek counter-arguments that will provide support for your argument.


I never spoke to that person. I am absolutely certain of this.
I don't usually reduce the price on these.

You said you disliked most of these. Which ones do you like?
You said you always have dark green. Have you ever had another shade?


We often use qualifiers unintentionally, and they act as signals, flagging to the other person our inner thoughts. Thus a person who you are persuading will use qualifiers to show how really interested or committed they are to your idea.

People who see the world in black and white are likely to use absolute qualifiers. Absolute qualifiers are also likely to be used by people who are 'taking a position' or feel backed into a corner. If you push people too hard they may thus use absolute qualifiers as a defensive move.

Relative qualifiers are signals either of uncertainty or a desire to please. People may see others as superior in some way, perhaps more expert, and thus may use relative qualifiers as an escape clause.

Qualifiers are a common method by which words are intensified or downplayed, which is common technique in persuasion.

See also

Floppy language, You Could Save..., Rank's Intensify/Downplay Schema, Amplification principle


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