I've been using the word 'quite' for a long time now. And I just learned its other meaning. Based on Google/Dictionary:

  1. to the utmost or most absolute extent or degree; absolutely; completely. "it's quite out of the question"

  2. to a certain or fairly significant extent or degree; fairly. "it's quite warm outside"

I guess the question is: how would you know which of these two different meanings is used in a sentence (both in written or verbal)?

For instance, I was asked how's the exam. I would like to answer "It was a bit hard". Now if I use the word quite: The exam was quite hard!, how would the other person know if I mean:

a. "it is absolutely hard!" or

b. "it is not so hard"?

  • 3
    Does this answer your question? Ambiguity of "quite" In 'BrE', (especially of course with gradable adjectives!) 'quite' rarely means 'totally'. Care has to be taken with quite clear, quite sure ... where the 'fairly' reading (and substitution) works. Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 11:07
  • How can 'quite' be interpreted to mean "not very"? Do you have an example use in this sense? I mean, I would take "to a certain or fairly significant degree" to mean not just a little bit: I would take It's quite warm to mean that it is definitely very warm.
    – Conrado
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 12:17
  • @Conrado: for "quite warm", yes, I think it almost always means very warm. But "quite interesting", spoken in a British accent in a certain tone of voice, can mean "not all that interesting." Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 12:24
  • @PeterShor True; and I think that it works in an American accent too, but that's sarcastic, and would work with "very interesting" almost as well.
    – Conrado
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 12:27


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