5

он сильно занят

vs: он очень занят

I assume that in this specific instance you can swap "очень" with "сильно" in the sense of "very much". However, given that "сильно" carries the fundamental meaning of "strongly", I'm not sure if "очень" is interchangeable with "сильно" all the time.

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My answer may not be based on any academic facts, but I will try to analyze this as a native Russian speaker. Очень and сильно are not always interchangeable.

  1. When used to describe current state of a person/situation they are interchangeable, both can be used.

Он очень разозлился. = He got very angry.

Он сильно разозлился.

Моя рука очень болит. = My hand hurts very much.

Моя рука сильно болит.

  1. When used to describe qualities of a person/object – not really interchangeable. Сильно even when used may sound strange or bear negative connotation:

Станция находится очень далеко. = The station is very far.

Станция находится сильно далеко. -> this sounds awkward

Ты очень умный. = You are very smart. (neutral)

Ты сильно умный. = You are smart as fuck. (not really a compliment)

  1. When used to describe actual [physical] force – сильно should be used:

Он очень ударил человека кулаком. -> this sounds awkward

Он сильно ударил человека кулаком. = He punched the man hard.

Этот район очень пострадал от землетрясения. = This area suffered much damage from the earthquake. – Sounds okay, but not preferred.

Этот район сильно пострадал от землетрясения. -> this usage is preferred

  1. Only сильно can be used with adverbs так / не так:

Я так сильно тебя люблю! = I love you so much!

Я очень тебя люблю! = I love you much!

Я так очень тебя люблю! -> completely wrong

Он не так сильно привязан к родителям. = He's not so much attached to his parents.

Он не очень привязан к родителям. = He's not much attached to his parents.

Он не так очень привязан к родителям. -> completely wrong

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  • Hi. Do you think "он сильно занят" is close to "super busy"? Mar 23 '18 at 15:26
  • I'd say it's just "very busy". But as mentioned above, you can say "он очень сильно занят" for that meaning. Mar 23 '18 at 15:35
  • It appears to me that distinction in cases #1 and #2 can be explained as a distinction between a verb and adverb/adjective.
    – Alexander
    Mar 23 '18 at 17:54
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Сильно instead of очень is very colloquial. I don't recommend to use it at all.

It has negative connotation.

  • Он очень умный = he is very smart
  • Он сильно умный = (approximately) he is smartass. It is never a compliment.

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