The word quite is often confusing to non-native speakers. Can you give me a list of words that typically collocate with quite when the meaning is 'extreme'?

  • I think it's possible everybody has misunderstood your question. While "quite" can mean "very", "not quite" does not mean "not very". If I say a theater is "not quite full", it means "nearly completely full". If I say a theater is "not very full", it probably means "fairly empty". Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 13:22
  • In what dictionary does quite denote anything extreme?
    – mplungjan
    Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 18:25
  • @mplungjan Yes, this is the confusing thing about the question. Both Wiktionary and Oxford Dictionaries Online list several meanings, one of which is “completely”. That’s not the same as “extreme”, but I think it’s what annie must have meant. Commented May 2, 2011 at 16:37

3 Answers 3


I think that rather on the association with certain words, it depends on the context and use.

Quite has 2 meanings:

  1. to a certain degree;
  2. absolutely, completely.

See here for its usage, there is a note at the bottom.


Any of them? The word quite in this context is an adverb with the same grammar and roughly the same meaning as very. You can pair it with any adjective that you'd like:

  • quite handsome
  • quite yellow
  • quite expensive
  • quite heavy
  • etc.

Using quite in this way is somewhat formal, so in ordinary conversation you'd most often use very. (Edit: It's not really very archaic, so I removed that note.)

  • 7
    +1 Good answer. I would disagree about its being archaic; it's still used quite often in American English, and I'd say that it isn't quite as strong an intensifier as very. So unless you're being ironic, something that is quite heavy is heavier than something that is somewhat heavy but not as heavy as something that is very heavy. Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 12:18
  • I must say, to agree with @Peter, that it certainly can't be considered archaic here in the UK. It is, in fact, 'quite common' and I would classify its use as frequent over occasional. It certainly isn't antiquated. I could probably make note of at least five occurrences per day in our office. Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 13:06
  • @Peter, @Mr., I bowed to popular demand and removed the statement that it was archaic. Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 13:08
  • @Peter, I agree(unless I'm archaic) I use it all the time. @JSBangs, To me there's also a subtle sense that the particular quality was previously unknown or known to a lesser extent. Quite heavy, might also imply that there was a question about it's weight previously.
    – Sam
    Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 13:08
  • 1
    In UK usage, it’s not really a synonym of “very”. Like “rather”, it can act both as an intensifier and as the opposite. This has been discussed in at least a couple of other questions, eg Ambiguity of “quite”
    – PLL
    Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 13:18

This is probably because I am American, but to me, the only time quite means anything like extreme is when it is negated. Then it means exactly, entirely, completely; so that not quite means not exactly, not entirely. This is very common, and you don’t have to memorize words that collocate with it because negated quite can modify just about anything:

I wasn’t quite ready to do it.

That’s not quite what I intended.

We tried to find other projects to do and never quite managed to pull anything together.

Otherwise, to me, it means markedly, to an unusual degree: He’s quite tall. But quite tall isn’t necessarily as tall as extremely tall.

Quite can mean exactly, entirely, completely even without negation, but then it strikes me as a bit British:

Quite right. / Quite so. (British stock phrases meaning yes, exactly)

I'd quite forgotten I had it. (British)

He knows how busy you are, of course, and quite understood. (oh so very British)

In American English, when quite modifies a verb, it is almost always negated.

Setting aside the negated uses, in American English quite appears most often in: quite different, quite frankly/honestly/simply, quite sure, quite well/good, quite possible/possibly/likely/often, quite surprised, and you’re quite welcome.

  • In most of the phrases listed at the end, quite just means markedly/especially, not extremely or exactly/entirely/completely. The exception is quite sure, which means completely sure. That is the one positive use of quite to mean completely that doesn’t strike me as at all British. Commented May 2, 2011 at 16:33

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