He doesn't really her vs. he really doesn't like her

When I checked my answers in this online exercise: 'Adverbs- Position' Quiz - Exercise & Worksheet - UsingEnglish.com I found out that the correct answer for question no: 8 is ‘don’t REALLY like’ but question no: 13; the correct answer is ‘He REALLY doesn’t like her’. Can you please enlighten me about the fact that in the first example ‘really’ comes after the negative but in the second example really must be put before the negative. I REALLY can’t figure out this problem. Excuse the pun :blush:

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For Q8 and Q13, the difference between the two answers is subtle. I think the intent of those questions is to understand that subtle difference. In both cases, if you read the rest of the sentence it gives you a clue to the answer. But first you need to understand the subtle difference.

I think those questions are getting nit-picky. This is very advanced and subtle English in my opinion. It took me a while to figure out why the author chose the answers they did.

I really don’t like fish…
I really dislike fish. This is a stronger dislike.

I don’t really like fish…
I don’t particularly like fish. This is milder than the first answer. To not like something is not the same as to dislike it.

If you ignore the rest of the sentence, both of the above are correct.

Here is the clue to the answer.
I can eat it, but I wouldn’t choose it
This is mild and more closely resembles the second answer.

If you only read the first part of the sentence, it is similar to Q8. The first answer is a stronger dislike. The second answer is milder.

Here is the clue.
in fact I’d say he hates her
This is very strong. It makes the first answer a better match.

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You’re absolutely right @NearlyNapping. Your answer makes sense. In question 13, ‘really’ is placed before the verb to put more emphasis. However, this is not the case in question 8 since he can eat fish even though he doesn’t like it.

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I can eat it, but I wouldn’t choose it
This is mild. This more closely matches doesn’t really like.

So Q13 is a very strong dislike. Q8 is much more mild. So they have opposite answers.

The placement actually changes the meaning of the word “really”.

I really don’t like
‘Really’ emphasizes ‘don’t’.

I don’t really like
Here, the word ‘really’ de-emphasizes ‘like’.

So the word “really” can be used to either emphasize or de-emphasize.


Adverbs are usually placed after BE verbs and before DO and HAVE verbs as in the following:

  • He is always late.
  • He always tells lies.
  • He always has some excuse.

An adverb is usually used between the first two components of the verbal as in the following (unless you want to stress some aspect) as in the following:
He has always been staying with me since I met with an accident in April 2022.

However, an adverb can also be restrictive and modify the word before it is placed as in the following:

  1. Only he visited me.
  2. He only visited me.
  3. He visited only me.

Similarly, the adverb ‘really’ can also emphasize what you want to as in the following:
He REALLY doesn’t like her. (Disliking her is real)
He doesn’t REALLY like her. (Liking her is not real)


This brings up a different side of this.

He doesn’t really like her.
A degree of like. How much does he like her?

If you emphasize the word ‘really’…
He doesn’t REALLY like her.
It is not true that he likes her. This is not a degree of like. This is a denial.

Joe said he likes her. He doesn’t really like her. He lied. He just said that to make her feel better.


In reality, he doesn’t like her.


I was a bit ‘mild’ saying ‘liking her is not real’, which is tantamount to being fake (or feigned) and it is almost like denial.
Now, reading the assertions (made by @Torsten and you), I have to follow suit.
Thank you both.