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the difference between fast/quick/rapid

In this sentence:

My supervisor reported I finished quickest among other trainees in that period.

What is the best word to use for quickest? Should it be quickest, or fastest, or is there a better word choice entirely?

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I would use first if that in fact happened. Though it leaves open the possibility that others started later in the period. Otherwise, I like "in less time than the other trainees", "more quickly than any of the other trainees", "quicker than any of the other trainees". –  David Schwartz Sep 29 '12 at 12:47
@DavidSchwartz disagree; first doesn't imply "in time" implicitly. If the criterion is, for instance, "highest score" instead of "fastest time" then you can come first if you have the highest score rather than being the first to finish. –  Mr Lister Sep 29 '12 at 13:04
@MrLister True, if you just say "I finished first", that could be understood to mean first by some other criterion than time. "I was first to finish" is clear, but a bit awkward. –  David Schwartz Sep 29 '12 at 13:06
Yes, so in the context of the question, "finished first" is ambiguous while "finished quickest" or "fastest" is not. –  Mr Lister Sep 29 '12 at 13:08
Also, "quickest among other trainees" is wrong, since you are by definition not among the others. Better: "more quickly than any other trainee" or "quickest of all trainees". (Many people would also object to using "quickest" adverbially, but I don't.) –  StoneyB Sep 29 '12 at 16:09
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marked as duplicate by Robusto, Cameron, MετάEd, coleopterist, tchrist Oct 1 '12 at 2:09

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1 Answer

The word used does not do a good job of conveying what was probably intended.

Both quickest and fastest are comparative terms which imply that speed or velocities are being compared. That is almost certainly not the case here. While it is possible that actual speed at the time of finishing is being measured, it is far more likely that what is being compared are durations.

"Finished quickest" or "finished fastest" may be a good choice for something like 1/4 mile drag races where a high speed of the vehicle at the end of the run is valued - as well as the lowest elapsed time.

Here, most people will understand that the intended meaning is (probably)
"finished sooner than" / "finished before" / "was first" / "finished first" etc.

So, eg:

"My supervisor reported that I finished

  • before

  • well before

  • ahead of

  • sooner than

  • much sooner than

all the other trainees in that period."

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As mentioned in the question comments, it is also very possible that the trainees started at different times, and the trainee that took the least time to complete the task could well have finished later than other trainees. –  John Y Sep 29 '12 at 13:57
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