Moira in Cambridge
Professional Teacher
The meaning of QUITE. Hello Everybody! My proficiency student (C2-) and I were discussing the use of 'quite.' In the UK we use 'quite' in 2 very different ways: VERY/TOTALLY/COMPLETELY or FAIRLY/SOMEWHAT/ a bit! Doctor to police officer. "He's quite dead, I assure you. Been dead a week, I'd say." Police office to doctor. "A week? That's quite a long time." Obviously they mean quite (very!) different things. Maths teacher to child who has added 2 + 2 and got 4. "Well done. You're quite right." The teacher means that the child is exactly right, not that he's a bit correct! So now my question... or rather, REQUEST. Please can you check the following website on the differences in usage of 'quite' in the UK and the USA. As far as I am concerned the UK has both uses, always has, and always will. I am mystified by this author's statement that there is only one use in the UK (quite=fairly), and in the USA (quite=very). Comments, please.What do you Americans make of.... I quite like pizza with banana sauce. Like it a lot? Like it a bit? To me it can mean either, depending on how I say it.
Aug 24, 2014 3:07 PM
Answers · 14
Hi Moira It's right, but it doesn't tell the whole story. It's vastly oversimplified and therefore totally misleading. Of course we have both meanings in British English! The meaning of 'quite' depends on whether it is modifying a gradeable or ungradeable adjective. With a gradeable adjective, it means 'fairly' (quite tired/quite scary/quite good). With a non-gradeable adjective, it means 'totally' (quite exhausted/quite terrifying/quite wonderful). I believe that American English tends not to use 'quite' so much with the former meaning. I remember, some months ago, a learner wanted to know about different 'grades' of expressing the idea of liking something. A British member suggested 'I quite like ...' as a lukewarm expression of approval. I was surprised to see that most Americans were unfamiliar with the expression, and interpreted it as 'I like it very much'. I'd also be 'quite' (not to say 'very'' ..) interested to hear what other people have to say about this.
August 24, 2014
Wendy: Did you see the "Fatal Beatings" video on YouTube with Mr. Bean? There's a dialogue when some student's Father asked about his sons death. I think he asks; "Is he dead". Mr. Bean says; "Well, ummmmmm, ...deadish." So, deadish qualifies in this usage as either ....exactly and totally or almost or slightly. I think Mr. Bean is hilarious....ha ha ....."deadish" as though the boy could be somewhat dead, or "rather dead". Rather is another word which lends itself to the same kind of interpretation does it not? If asked; "Is he dead?" We could say; "Rather!" That would mean; Of course, absolutely!" Or it could mean; "Nearly dead." Is this fair to say? Are there other terms which are open to slight differences in interpretation? I just rememebered this. If I say; "Am I thorough?" You could say; "Quite." ...meaning completely. Or you could say; "Not quite". And you could also say; "Quite." Your tone, if sarcastic, would mean that it is only in my own imagination that I am thorough, right? [Oh, and hopefully you will not answer this entire post with, "Quite.". I will have a cow!"]
August 24, 2014
In my mind, 'quite' can mean 'fairly/somewhat' or 'very', but not 'completely/totally'. 'Quite dead' sounds as awkward to me as 'very dead' and 'somewhat dead'. It's the same with 'quite right'. 'Quite good' could mean both 'very good' and 'fairly good' to me, depending on how it's said. I'd interpret 'I quite like...' as 'I like... a lot'.
August 29, 2014
Yes, RCompass. It definitely has 2 meanings. It's the article on the website that is misleading. But Americans may feel it to mean only 'very' rather than 'fairly'.. it seems. See the answer by Su Ki.
August 24, 2014
Sorry. predeterminer UK.
August 24, 2014
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