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What is the correct word to use here and why:

I will get there quicker [than you]

vs.

I will get there faster [than you]

There must be similar adverbs for "slower".

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I wonder if slow is not the best antonym to both quick and fast –  mplungjan Jun 27 '11 at 14:17
    
nice question.. –  Unreason Jun 27 '11 at 15:29
    
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"I will get there quicker [than you]" is incorrect. You want, "I will get there more quickly [than you]". –  Neil McGuigan Jun 27 '11 at 18:10
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“There must be similar adverbs for "slower".” Not necessarily — “Less“ is for continuous quantities, “fewer” for discrete, but “more” serves just fine for both. (Which is why all the less/fewer pedants can take a running jump. Pointless rules are pointless.) –  Paul D. Waite Jun 27 '11 at 21:00

12 Answers 12

up vote 24 down vote accepted

The definition of the two words makes them synonymous in virtually all cases. However, they do have slightly different connotations that lead to preference in usage. I generally think of something as "fast" if it can achieve a high speed. I think of something as "quick" if it responds rapidly to input. This generally leads to preference of one word over the other in context; "fast" is used in context of speed, while "quick" is used in context of time. So, you would travel fast to get somewhere quickly.

In the same vein, "quick" is used to describe the quality of an action that is short and powerful, e.g. a "quick head-fake". "Fast" is generally used to describe actions that are more sustained, e.g. "a fast sprint down the field".

None of this is concrete; you hear of someone, say in a race, having "the fastest time" much more often than "the quickest time". Clearly, the context is time, not speed, but use of "fast" is preferred anyway.

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In my experience as a sports-follower, it is very common to use either "quickest time" or "fastest time" for races (car or foot or whatever). I expect there may be some commentators who prefer one over the other, or some events in which it's more customary to use one over the other, or perhaps some regional differences; but I hear them both all the time. –  John Y Jun 28 '11 at 0:31
    
What about "shortest time"? Wouldn't that be even more accurate? –  Zano Jun 28 '11 at 7:57
    
@Zano: Your phrase is fine, though less common than either quickest or fastest. Yours is also less common than best time, in the context of races. For whatever reason, it is more common to use shortest in conjunction with duration rather than time. –  John Y Jun 29 '11 at 20:32
    
@John Y: I thought it tasted a bit wrong. A short duration makes sense, while a short time not really that much. –  Zano Jun 30 '11 at 23:07

In sports, fast typically refers to speed and quick is more likely to refer to reflexes.

A quick basketball player is more likely to get a rebound or steal the ball, while a fast one will arrive at the other end of the court sooner.

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According to the entries in Dictionary.com for fast and quick, they are almost exact synonyms, and neither is incorrect.

If you want a quick answer, read no further than this: choose whichever you have heard most or whichever sounds right to you. If you're not sure, remember that you can't go far wrong when you are choosing between fast and quick.

To expound, from my experience, I would say that "getting somewhere quicker" is less commonly used than "getting somewhere faster", and if I were to choose between your examples, I would tend toward the more common word faster. A good general rule for colloquial or casual speech or writing is: use the word that is most readily known and understood.

The difference between quick and fast is very slight. In your examples, I believe faster is the more usual word; hence I would use it. However, in the sentence "A humane death is quick and painless", fast would not be my choice, because "fast death" is much less common than "quick death". Also, as you have already read, I used the word quick when referring to my shorter answer (higher up). That is because a "fast answer" did not sound as usual to me.

In cases like this, in which there are two synonyms being decided between, you have a lot of freedom, and ultimately you ought to choose which, from your experience, is more common, and more readily understood.

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The fast answer could possibly be wrong, given hastily, whereas the quick answer feels like it could be right. –  mplungjan Jun 27 '11 at 14:16
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@mplungjan, you gave that comment quickly, but I read it even faster. –  Unreason Jun 27 '11 at 15:20

Faster is a comparison of speed. (100mph v 120mph) Quicker is a comparison of time. (10min v 20min)

In modern conversation they are often used interchangeably.

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FWIW, I don't agree they are used interchangeably, not correctly anyway. They have very distinct meanings. Often if you are faster you are also quicker, for obvious reasons, but they are linked by cause and effect, not by having the same meaning. –  Fraser Orr Jun 27 '11 at 19:32
    
I considered adding something to the effect of "but this is incorrect" to my last sentence, but I tend towards descriptivism rather than prescriptivism so I let is slide. –  Andrew Lewis Jun 27 '11 at 21:53
    
Regardless of whether one is a descriptivist or prescriptivist, your sentence beginning with the phrase "in modern conversation" is a simple statement of fact, and needs no further qualification. –  John Y Jun 28 '11 at 0:23

Quicker means in a smaller amount of time.

Faster means at a higher rate of speed.

Compare walking to the local store with flying an B1 Bomber to Afghanistan.

The first would be quick, it might only take five minutes, but it would be slow because only walk at 3mph.

The second would not be quick, it would take 30 hours of flight time, but it would be fast, because you flew near the speed of sound.

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In a 'scientific' context:

  • 'quicker' usually refers to acceleration, that is the rate at which an object gains speed.

  • 'faster' usually refers to velocity, that is the speed of the object in a given direction.

A real-life example would be as follows:

A car that could travel at 200 mph, but took an hour to get to that speed and had a 0-60mph time of 3 minutes would very fast, but not quick at all.

A car that could only travel at a top speed of 60mph, but could go from 0-60mph in half a second would be extremely quick, but not very fast.

EDIT:

To more directly answer your question... both are correct grammatically, and simply have slightly different connotations. The person who got there 'quicker' may have spent last time traveling. The person who got there 'faster' was traveling at a higher speed. In general, the first one is probably would people MEAN to say, though the second isn't necessarily wrong.

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I like the (ridiculous) car examples! –  John Y Jun 28 '11 at 0:20

Most of the time, there is no difference between faster and quicker but there is a difference between fast and quick.

Often fast refers to over all speed whereas quick often relates to more immediate, "out of the gate" speed. There are some topics of speech in which the two terms have a notable difference and others where there is none at all.

In sports, one often will say that Person A is fast but Person B is quick. That means that in a race over a distance, Person A would win. However, in terms of the first few steps, Person B would have the better speed. In American Football, one type of player, called a receiver, is fast and able run 50-100m in very short times. However, other players called linemen have twice the weight of receivers (and then some) are typically fat but are often called quick because of their speed from a sitting stance to point of hitting their opponent is very short. This is one of the few contexts where faster and quicker would also have different meanings.

In speech related to decisions, quick often implies limited or no planning or analysis whereas fast simply means "in less time than is typical". A person that makes fast decisions might mean taking an hour, a day or a week. The reader must make some assumptions as to a point of comparison (i.e., fast in comparison to what?). A person that makes quick decisions implies that they do not expend much or any time in analysis. Often it means that a decision is made almost immediately after hearing the problem. However, in this example, quicker and faster would mean the same. She makes quick decisions means something different than She makes fast decisions. However, Alice decides quicker than Bob means the same as Alice decides faster than Bob.

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Nice mention of the special case of "quick decisions". –  John Y Jun 28 '11 at 0:19

I personally hear a distinct difference.

I could get there faster than you—I will be travelling using a faster method than you - taking a plane instead of a bus for example.

I could get there quicker than you—I know a short cut that you do not

UPDATE: If I get there faster than you, I will arrive before you. If I get there quicker than you, I may be there at the same time as you, but I spent less time travelling. Again this is my subjective, unsubstantiated feelings on this.

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This is a subjective connotation, however. "Quicker", to my mind, does not necessarily imply a shortcut. –  Daniel Jun 27 '11 at 14:19
    
Surely. Hence the personally but perhaps someone knows a source where it can be checked –  mplungjan Jun 27 '11 at 14:20
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In reply to your edit - faster does mean "spent less time traveling", and quicker can "arrive before you". –  Daniel Jun 27 '11 at 14:23
    
I know - however that is how those two word feel to me. –  mplungjan Jun 27 '11 at 14:28
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ANd judging by other comments, I am not alone. –  mplungjan Jun 28 '11 at 5:30

In that context, they mean the same, but in general fast refers to getting somewhere in the shortest amount of time, whereas quick refers to the ability to change direction in a small amount of time, or to accelerate/decelerate in a small amount of time.

from the Online Etymological Dictionary:

"fast may apply to rapid motion of any duration, while in quick (in accordance with its original sense of 'live, lively') there is a notion of 'sudden'"

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Generally quick refers to time, fast refers to speed.

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In common usage, such as basketball, "quick" refers to acceleration while "speed" refers to velocity.

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In general usage, there is no difference in meaning. In this context, both words are referring to arriving at a place in a shorter amount of time.

However, to be completely correct, the first sentence should say

I will get there more quickly [than you].

While faster is and can be used as both an adverb and and adjective, quicker can be used only as an adjective.

Correct: I want a quicker response. (Adjective modifying response)

Incorrect: I want the response to come quicker. (Adverb modifying come)

Fixed: I want the response to come more quickly.

and

Correct: I want a faster response. (Same)

Also Correct: I want the response to come faster. (Same)

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protected by RegDwigнt Mar 30 '12 at 16:06

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