Very is a word commonly used when speaking, though it’s criminally overused. But we’re a dramatic culture, and its strong presence is here to stay.
Where we can go wrong is using it for words that can’t be qualified using that word. Aside from the mistake of pairing it with unique—which is important enough to warrant its own separate blog—very is often used with first and last. “The very first thing he did was…,” or “It’s in the very last chapter of the book.”
Think about it. What’s the difference between the very first and the first? The correct answer is “Nothing.” What’s the difference between the very last and the last? The answer is an even more emphatic: “Nothing!”
First and last can’t be described as somewhat first or extremely last. Can’t be done. If it’s first, it’s first. Same with last; if it’s last, it’s last.
So let’s leave these nice strong words alone, and let them stand up for their own meaning without any help from a word that shouldn’t precede them.
Note: You’re going to hear and read these expressions every day, but just let it roll past your brain.