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This morning on NPR a U.S. Senator, speaking of another Senator whose retirement had been announced, said,

He will be very, very missed.

When did missed become an adjective, so as to be modifiable by very?  To my way of thinking, missed in that sentence is a verb in past-participial form, and the passive voice; and it needs an adverb to modify it:

He will be greatly missed.


He will be sadly missed.

I wouldn’t say, “very missed” any more than I would, “very running”.

On the other hand, while treating that particular word, missed, as an adjective may be an innovation, the general practice of treating past participles as adjectives is nothing new.  For instance, tired is a pure verb, the past participle of the transitive verb, to tire.  Yet I wouldn’t bat an eye at a sentence like this:

Christmas shopping always tires me, so after a full day of it, I was very, very tired.

We do it with present participles, too:

She found the offer of employment very appealing.

I suppose it just goes to show how much of what we think of as the rules of language—some would say, all of it—really depends on arbitrary custom.  But it’s precisely those customs that make language intelligible, which, I suppose, is why innovations against custom make so many of us uncomfortable.

At any rate, you won’t catch me saying “very missed”.  If you do, I’ll be very, very embarrassed.