fairly, quite, rather and pretty

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” orĀ  “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”

5. Note

  1. The exact meaning of these words may depend on the intonation used
  2. Quite is not used very much in this way in American English
  3. We put quite and rather before a/an
  • It was quite a nice day.
  • I’m reading rather an interesting book