1. Fairly modifies adjectives and adverbs. It is not very strong:
if you say that somebody is “fairly nice” or “fairly clever”, she will not be very pleased.
- “How was the film?” “Fairly good. Not the best one I’ve seen this year”
- I speak Greek fairly well – enough for most everyday purposes.
2. Quite is a little stronger than fairly
- ” How was the film?” “Quite good. You ought to go”
- He’s been in Greece for two years , so he speaks Greek quite well.
Quite can modify verbs
- It was a good party. I quite enjoyed myself.
3. Rather is stronger than quite. It can mean “more than is usual” , “more than was expected” or “more than is wanted
- “How was the film?” “Rather good- I was surprised”
- Maurice speaks Greek rather well. People often think he’s Greek
- I think I’ll put the heating on. It’s rather cold.
Rather can modify verbs
- I rather like gardening.
4. Pretty is similar to rather. It is only used in informal English
- “How are you feeling?” “Pretty tired. I’m going to bed”
- The exact meaning of these words may depend on the intonation used
- Quite is not used very much in this way in American English
- We put quite and rather before a/an
- It was quite a nice day.
- I’m reading rather an interesting book