Rather | English Usage

Rather is an adverb of degree. Its meaning is similar to fairly and quite.

With adjectives and adverbs, rather suggests ‘more than is usual’ ‘more than was expected’ and similar ideas.

Rather can modify comparatives and too.

With nouns

Rather can modify noun phrases, with or without adjectives. It generally comes before articles, but can also come after a/an if there is an adjective.

Rather is not normally used before a plural noun with no adjective.

With verbs

Rather can modify verbs.


Quite | English Usage

Quite suggests a higher degree than fairly. It can modify adjectives, adverbs, verbs and nouns.

With non-gradable adjectives and adverbs quite means completely.

With gradable adjectives and adverbs, quite means something like ‘fairly’ or ‘rather’.

Quite is not used directly before comparatives. We use other words like rather, much or a bit.

This rule, however, has an exception. Quite can be used before better.

With nouns

We use quite a/an before a noun with a gradable adjective or no adjective.

With non-gradable adjectives, quite comes after a/an.

Fairly vs. Quite vs. Rather vs. Pretty

Fairly is an adverb of degree. It generally modifies adjectives and adverbs.

  • He can speak English fairly well.

Fairly does not suggest a very high degree.

  • ‘How was the film?’ ‘Fairly good.’ (Not the best one I have seen this year.)


Quite suggests a higher degree than fairly.

  • ‘How was the film?’ ‘Quite good.’ (You ought to watch it.)

Quite can modify adjectives, adverbs, verbs and nouns.

  • She speaks English quite well.
  • He is quite tall.
  • He is quite a scholar.
  • I quite enjoyed myself at the party.


Rather is stronger than quite. It suggests ideas such as more than is usual, more than was expected or more than was wanted.

  • I think I should close the window. It is rather cold.
  • Do you see that rather tall boy standing over there.
  • ‘How was the film?’ ‘Rather good.’ (I was surprised.)

Rather can modify adjectives, adverbs, verbs and nouns.

  • It was rather a success.
  • I rather think we are going to lose.


Pretty is similar to rather.

  • She is a pretty good girl.
  • ‘How is things?’ ‘Pretty good.

Pretty can modify adjectives and adverbs. It can’t modify nouns or verbs.