Adverb Lesson – Instead of Very, Use Fairly, Pretty, Quite, & Rather

MichaelAD Grammar 5 Comments

The weather here in NY has been quite cold recently. Usually, winters here in the Big Apple are fairly cold and snowy, but this year we’ve had pretty cold temperatures and a rather large amount of snow. I’m very tired of this weather, and hoping spring will come soon…

I’m sure a lot of Happy English readers know how to use very, but there are a few other words that you can use in your everyday English that function just like very. I’m going to show you these words today.

Fairly is the weakest of these adverbs. We use fairly before an adjective or another adverb:

  • Jack plays golf fairly well, considering he just started playing last year.
  • Jenny’s French is fairly good. I’m sure she’ll have no trouble during her business trip to Paris.

Quite is a bit stronger than fairly, and can also be used before verbs and nouns. Using quite before a verb or noun is more common in British English than American English.

  • I was quite tired last night so I went straight to bed.
  • Paul knows football quite well, so if you want to know the rules, just ask him.
  • I quite like spending time with Jenny. She’s a very interesting person.
  • It’s quite a shame that they only stayed in NYC for four nights. That’s not a lot of time to see everything.

Pretty and rather are both stronger than quite, and about the same level as each other. Rather is more formal and pretty is more informal. Like quite, rather can be used before verbs and nouns and this usage is more common in British English than American English.

  • That musical was rather boring. I wouldn’t see it if I were you.
  • The food in that restaurant was good, but it was rather expensive.
  • I rather like going to classical concerts.
  • Not seeing Jane when she came to NYC was rather a disappointment.

Pretty is only used before an adjective or another adverb. The degree is the same as rather, but again, pretty is informal.

  • That musical was pretty boring. I wouldn’t see it if I were you.
  • The food in that restaurant was good, but it was pretty expensive.
  • The view from the top of that building is pretty nice.

If you know anyone who might be interested in this English language point, why not help them out! Just share this lesson with them. Thanks for studying today!



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Comments 5

  1. In English courses, we are taught that prettty is used for positive things (prettty nice, prettty goid,etc), whereas rather is restricted to bad or.negative things and exoeriences, such as rather boring, rather difficult, and so on.
    From your examples, it seems that there is no such a distinction. Would you mind elaborating a little bit?

    1. As a non-native English speaker, I had been told the same as you in class in an European school. So now I had to look it up in the dictionary to ensure. So the results are:
      rather is the same with quite or pretty. Rather isn’t only used for negative adjectives. Rather is used for ANY adjective, irrespective of whether the adjective is positive or negative.
      Examples: rather good, rather pretty (meant positively)

      Cheers !

      1. Post

        Thanks for your input here. I didn’t mean to imply that “rather” is only used with “negative adjectives,” even though my examples were like that. And let me reiterate, rather (especially in cases such as “rather good”) is less commonly used in American English.
        By the the way, let me help you: ABC is the same as XYZ – the same “as” works better that the same “with” when we are comparing items. The coffee here is the same as the coffee there. We use the same “with” when talking about situations.
        A: My boss is a pain in the neck. She always makes me work overtime.
        B: Oh, it’s the same with my job. I always need to work late too.
        I hope that helps 👍

  2. It was pretty cold this morning.
    My husband and my son went out to the sea to fishing early morning.
    My son was very excited last night, but fairly sleepy when he went out.

    1. Nice examples, Jackie
      This works better: “My husband and my son went out to the sea for fishing in the early morning.”

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