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fairly, quite, rather and pretty: adverbs of degree

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Another grammar point is about the adverbs of degree.

 

fairly, quite, rather and pretty: adverbs of degree

1. Fairly
Fairly generally modifies adjectives and adverbs. It does not suggest a very high degree: of you say that somebody is fairly nice or fairly clever, for example, he or she will not be very pleased.

How was the film? ~ Fairly good. Not the best one I’ve seen this year.
I speak Russian fairly well – enough for everyday purposes.

2. Quite
Quite (especially in British English) suggests a higher degree than fairly.

How was the film? ~ Quite good. You ought to go.
It’s quite a difficult book – I had trouble with it.

Quite can modify verbs and nouns.

I quite enjoyed myself at your party.

The room was quite a mess.

adverbs of degree

3. Rather
Rather is stronger than quite. It can suggest ‘more than is usual’, ‘more than was expected’, ‘more than was wanted’, and similar ideas.

How was the film? ~Rather good – I was surprised.
Maurice speaks Russian rather well. People often think he is Russian.

Rather can modify verbs (especially verbs that refer to thoughts and feelings) and nouns.

I rather think we’re going to lose.

She rather likes gardening.

It was rather a disappointment.

4. Pretty
Pretty (informal) is like rather, but only modifies adjectives and adverbs.

How’s things? ~ Pretty good. You OK?
You’re driving pretty fast.

Pretty well means ‘almost’.

I’ve pretty well finished.

Swan, M. (2005). Practical English Usage. 3rd ed. Oxford University Press.