How can I know that the word "rather" is meaning to some degree or excessively in a sentence?

They seem make sense to understand as any one of those two meanings in some examples below.


It's rather(meaning to some degree or excessively ?) expensive.

I rather(meaning to some degree or excessively ?) think he was telling the truth.

And how to use rather when I want to express exactly "to some degree" or "excessively" in a sentence?

In one dictionary:

Definition of 'rather'

and another dictionary:

Definition of 'rather'

  • 1
    Rather does not mean excessively. Rather can be used as an understatement to express that something is excessive, e.g. "it's rather expensive". But you could just as well say "it's somewhat expensive" to express the same meaning (i.e. "I cannot afford it"). Feb 13, 2017 at 18:56
  • The two meanings depend on whether you're using rather as a verb or adverb. In I rather think it's a verb.
    – Barmar
    Feb 13, 2017 at 21:37
  • That dictionary seems off to me. “He’s rather young to marry” doesn’t mean the same thing as 他年纪太小,还不能结婚 does. The Chinese sentence means “He’s too young to marry” (or more literally, “He’s too young; he can’t marry yet”). A translation that gets closer to the English meaning—though it feels less idiomatic—would be something like 他年纪对于结婚满小/有点儿小. Mar 16, 2017 at 10:48
  • Cross-post of ell.stackexchange.com/q/119176/4376
    – Chenmunka
    Jan 25, 2018 at 14:09

3 Answers 3


You have it all correctly except the second form:

I rather think he was telling the truth does not mean your thinking was excessive. When you rather think, you are saying you prefer to think it. Instead of thinking he was lying to you, you rather think (prefer to understand) he was telling you the truth.

Rather can mean Prefer

  • 1
    That would require an additional 'would'. "I rather think ..." (BrE) is quite different from "I'd rather think ...".
    – Lawrence
    Feb 14, 2017 at 9:06

When rather meaing degree , it similar to quite and fairly and somewhat.

"He was rather big" can mean anything from "not small" to "huge" .

Find that in Wiktionary


The word rather may not have the meaning "excessively" or "to some degree" always in English Language .

example 1 :- In that case I would rather refrain myself from going there but would send someone.

(Here it means a choice depending on situation or the Person decides)

example 2 : - He rather seems to be weak than strong during his teenage . He rather seems to be strong than weak compared to his childhood.

(When you are not sure about someone and you get a surprise of someone's efforts or strength. Here to some degree or excessively can be used depending on less or more outcome )

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