О́чень works when it describes the degree, extent of the action:
- Я о́чень хочу́ моро́женого. 'I want ice cream very much.' (i.e. the feeling is strong, I really want it)
- Я о́чень люблю́ котя́т. 'I like kittens very much.' (i.e. the feeling is strong, I really like it)
- Я о́чень жду но́вой кни́ги. 'I'm really waiting for the new book.' (i.e. the excitement is really strong, I really wait)
In the examples above, «о́чень» modifies the verb directly.
However, we don't use «о́чень» when 'very much' is about amount or number, and not about degree. Then, you have to use some other adverb with о́чень (usually 'о́чень мно́го'):
- Я о́чень мно́го чита́ю. 'I read very much.' (=I read a loot of books; the number of books I read is big)
- Я о́чень мно́го путеше́ствую. 'I travel very much.' (=I travel to a lot of places; the number of places I travel to is big)
- Окса́на о́чень мно́го зна́ет. 'Oksana knows very much.' (=Oksana knows lots of things; the amount of Oksana's knowledge is great)
In the examples above, о́чень modifies the adverb мно́го. It can't modify the verb: if you say «Я о́чень чита́ю», it would mean something like 'I'm reading to a gread degree, the reading is strong'. This doesn't really make much sense.
A good rule of thumb is: if you can replace 'very much, a lot' with 'extremely' in English, then you can use «о́чень» in Russian. If you can't use 'extremely', they you can't use «о́чень» without another adverb.
(Confusingly, that this is different when «очень» is negated. In colloquial speech, «не о́чень» can be used when talking about amount. «Я не очень читаю» is not incorrect.)
I believe "I seldom/rarely read" is closest to the meaning of the Russian sentence.
"I read little" is proper English but more of an older usage and not as common as today where "I don't read much" is more commonly used. They are not exactly the same though. "I read little" is much more accurate statement about how much someone reads while "I don't read much" is more vague as it can be interpreted reading anywhere from not at all to an average amount. It is worth noting that Russian seems to be more direct and less vague than English. It often leads to misunderstanding between English speakers where the listener may think some of the activity in question is happening when the speaker actually meant not at all.
«Очень» means a degree/extent of something is great, so its meaning it not combatible with «читать». You just can't read to a high degree or to a great extent. At least in Russian.
It works with some verbs (e.g. любить, я тебя очень люблю 'I love you very much'), but not with «читаю».
It works if you combine it with another adverb, e.g. «Я очень мало читаю» 'I read very little'. Here, очень 'very' modifies мало 'little', so it works. It can also modify adjectives (очень красивый 'very beautiful').
Not exactly. First of all, all words have meanings and these meanings are labeled with a part of speech such as noun, verb, adjective, adverb, et cetera (and sometimes more than one if the word has several meanings). Some words, such as "little" can be both an adjective and an adverb, but never both at the same time. In any given sentence, it will be one or the other. With regard to adverbs, specifically, they typically answer questions such as "where," "when," or "how." (If that's a bit too simplified for you, I don't mean to be annoying; I'm just trying to write this for a wide variety of skill levels.)
To continue, the word "мало" is an adverb that means "little," but not "little" like the adjective. When you're using it as an adjective, it is describing the size of something. For that, you would want to use the word "маленький". Here are some examples:
The word "мало", on the other hand, is an adverb. It's going to tell you "how" or "to what extent" you do something. The image below shows you its meanings as an adverb:
Entry for "little," the Merriam Webster Learner's Dictionary
When you need to convey the meanings you see in the image above, you use "мало" not "маленький".
I realize you didn't ask about "маленький" or the meaning of "little" as an adjective, but I thought the contrast between these two words would help those visiting this thread understand the differences a bit better.
I said "I read a little and it is marked wrong".
Is this article below wrong?