3

From the website of Cambridge Dictionary:

We can use quite + a/an before a noun to give it more emphasis or importance:

There was quite a crowd at the party.

It makes quite a difference when the wind isn’t blowing.

[He's quite a guy.]

My question: What if the noun is plural? What would be the right construct? Because the following sounds off to me:

*They were quite champions today.

[*They're quite guys.]

http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/grammar/british-grammar/quite

3
  • 3
    Yeah, I (AmE) would say, "They were quite the champions today."
    – Jim
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 20:43
  • But wouldn't that make them more "definite" than necessary? I mean: they are not the only champions. I want to say they (with the emphasis the "quite" expresses) were some of the champions, not the only ones.
    – asef
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 20:54
  • Well, when you use quite like in your sentence it may mean that not only were they the declared champions but that they exhibited quintessentially champion-like qualities.However, it could also mean that even though they were not the declared champions, they, in the speaker's opinion, were the ones that acted most like champions in some way. E.g., the sentence could be followed up with "even though they didn't win": "They were quite the champions today, even though they didn't win."
    – Jim
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 21:03

5 Answers 5

0

You can say things like: There were quite a large number of people at the party.Or There were quite a few hundred at the gathering.

However I suppose it could be argued that quite is qualifying the singular a number or a few.

Also There were quite some numbers gathered on the beach or:

There were quite fifty people in the house but this last is not exactly the same idiom.

14
  • Can I say they were quite some champions? Thank you for your answer. The other answers, I think, did not understand what I am precisely asking.
    – asef
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 21:54
  • 1
    @asef Yes - that is a common idiom. Brazil, in its time has produced quite some footballers. In winning Wimbledon he needed to defeat quite some opponents.
    – WS2
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 21:59
  • That's exactly the sense I am looking for. Thank you so much!
    – asef
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 22:02
  • Last question: would you mind sharing the source of the example: "Brazil, in its time has produced quite some footballers. In winning Wimbledon he needed to defeat quite some opponents"? If this is your sentence, do you use American or British English?
    – asef
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 22:06
  • Brazil has produced quite some footballers is hardly the same sense as He's quite a footballer. Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 22:08
2

They were quite champions today.

That version is not used but perhaps not for the reason you think.

Let us start with the singular.

He was quite a champion today.

That is possible but not the usual idiom. We are more likely to say:

He was quite the champion today."

I have no idea why.

Pluralise that and you get:

They were quite the champions today.

...and that is idiomatic.

P.S. I see that this is currently being discussed in the comments. When we say "'You are quite the champion" it actually means "You are are quite a champion." Again, I don't know why. Maybe someone else has an explanation.

P.P.S.

We should not be led astray by the fact that the word happens to be 'champion'. You could perhaps object by saying, "Well there can be only one champion". In fact the idiom works regardless.

Example:
He came from an upper middle class background somewhat similar to myself however, his father was quite the masked jackal and some of those traits would manifest when I would converse with him on different topics.
Opvs Daemonvm: The Devil's Diaries By Draconis Blackthorne

6
  • Yes I agree, but quite + the + plural noun sounds as if they are the only champions.
    – asef
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 20:59
  • That is what the grammar suggests but, to a native speaker, it doesn't come across that way. It is an idiom and the nuance it conveys is almost impossible to describe. As I say, I don't know why--it is an anomaly. Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 21:14
  • Quite (so) Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 21:27
  • Interesting that 'quite' is related to 'quit' as in a final settling or accounting (harking back to the Latin sense 'quietening an obligation or account'). So to say "He was quite the champion today", is to say, "He was accounted the champion", or as we might once have said, "He was quitted the champion today". Modern ears (and minds) struggle with the last, but it would have seemed perfectly normal a couple of hundred years ago. Looked at this way, it could equally have been said (in those days), 'quitted a champion' or 'quitted the champion' or indeed 'quitted champion'.
    – John Mack
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 21:35
  • Further to quite-quit-quiet, what we would be familiar with - although most would be at a loss to explain - is the expression, "The champion acquitted himself well on the field today". Essentially it means that he (or she) 'paid their account' (to their ambition, their supporters, or to their God).
    – John Mack
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 21:39
1

Quite technically cannot be used in front of a plural noun and still be grammatically correct. Using the instead of a/an when adding quite in front of a plural noun is really an idiomatic expression showing uniqueness. ex. She is quite the singer or They are quite the group of boys

As @Jim added above, quite the champions would be usable, but when looked at from a grammatical standpoint, it doesn't mean what you are trying to get across.

In conclusion, 'quite' can be used to describe singular nouns, but cannot be used in the same way to describe plural nouns.

1

'Quite' can't be used without a determiner in these constructions.

Although constructions like 'Those were quite some days!' cannot be labelled ungrammatical, the exact construction used affects acceptability or at least idiomaticity. Thus

'Those were quite some guys!'

sounds better than

'They're quite some teachers!' or

'They're quite some champions!'

ODO only gives examples of constructions using 'quite some' in its two senses (quantifier and emphasiser) followed by a singular noun:

Definition of quite some in English:

1 A considerable amount of: she hasn’t been seen for quite some time

2 informal way of saying quite a —— . Old Darlington was quite some place to live in.

............

I'd just use the plural form some, without the additional emphasiser quite:

They were some champions today.

AHDEL says that this usage is informal:

some adj.

  1. Informal Remarkable: She is some skier.

Collins does not add this caveat, but (wrongly) restricts the usage to a singular noun:

some determiner

  1. (usually stressed) an impressive or remarkable: that was some game!.
0

The word quite is generally used stylistically with a 'the' before a plural noun (i.e. they were quite the champions today). I cannot find any evidence of a quite + a/an construct with a plural noun.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.