These two little words can cause problems for non-native English speakers, so I thought it was time to take a look at how we usually use them. ‘Quite’ and ‘rather’ are degree modifiers. We use them to express the degree to which a certain quality is present.
‘Quite’ is more than ‘a little’ but less than ‘very’.
- It’s quite important that we reach a decision soon, or we won’t have time to implement it before the next review. (It’s not essential that we reach a decision … but it would be good.)
We can also use ‘quite’ with some verbs.
- I quite like the new campaign that the marketing department has come up with.
- Quite sure
- Quite right
- Quite true
- Quite clear
- Quite certain
- Quite wrong
- Quite safe
- Quite obvious
- Quite unnecessary
- Quite impossible
And ‘not quite’ is ‘not completely’.
- They haven’t quite finished the new building yet so we won’t move offices until next month.
‘Rather’ is a word that is similar to ‘quite’ but which we use mainly with negative verbs and ideas.
- It will be rather difficult to get everyone’s agreement on this new proposal because it will mean a lot of extra work for people and they are already very busy.
When we use it with positive words it means ‘surprisingly’ or ‘unusually’.
- These proposals from the sales department are rather interesting.
Both ‘quite’ and ‘rather’ can be used before nouns.
- The offices are in quite an old building and we need to consider relocating.
- It’s a rather expensive proposition.
‘Rather’ is quite flexible and can go before or after ‘a’ or ‘an’.
- A rather expensive proposition
- Rather an expensive proposition