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Die Nachricht hat mich ___ überrascht.

I want to mean "the news surprised me very much".

Should I use "viel", "sehr", "sehr viel", or do all of them work?

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The only one from your choices that works here is sehr

Die Nachricht hat mich sehr überrascht.

Viel doesn't work because it's an adjective. As an adjective it only can describe a noun but does not modify a verb.

Alternatives to sehr (which is an adverb) are, for example, völlig and total.

Die Nachricht hat mich völlig überrascht.
Die Nachricht hat mich total überrascht.

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    If it is a "very hard case of surprise", you can also say "..hat mich extrem überrascht." Jan 27 '14 at 7:27
  • You can also say "Die Nachricht hat mich komplett überrascht"
    – maja
    Jan 28 '14 at 7:54
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With verbs you normally use "sehr": Das hat mich sehr überrascht. Don't use "viel" or combinations with "viel". That is uncommon. German does not use something like "very much".

You can express a higher degree by saying Das hat mich wírklich überrascht. Here you lay stress on the first syllable of "wirklich". I indicated this by employing the sign í.

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