Using Quite vs Quiet

Instructor: David Boyles

David has a Master's in English literature. He has taught college English for 5+ years.

The similarly spelled words 'quite' and 'quiet' trip up even the most experienced writers and readers and lead to confusion. This lesson will discuss the difference between the noun 'quiet' and the adverb 'quite'.

Quiet and Quite

English is full of words that look similar but often have entirely different meanings and usages. One common example of this is 'quite' and 'quiet'. The words look very similar, so it is easy for both readers and writers to scan over them and not realize the difference. However, they are spelled and pronounced differently. 'Quite' rhymes with 'might' or 'slight', while 'quiet' rhymes with 'riot' or 'buy it'.

And of course they mean different things, too. Mixing up 'quite' and 'quiet' can lead to confusion whether you are writing or reading. Though they look similar, 'quite' and 'quiet' are different words and are entirely different parts of speech, meaning they do different jobs in a sentence, so using for one the other makes the sentence make no sense.

Quite Good!

Let's start with 'quite'. It is the part of speech known as an adverb, meaning that it modifies and describes an adjective, verb, or other group of words. 'Quite' means 'absolutely' or 'to a certain degree' and is used to add emphasis to an adjective or verb. For example, look at these two sentences:

  • The dinner you made was good.
  • The dinner you made was quite good.

Adding 'quite' to modify the adjective 'good' increases the intensity of the adjective, showing that the food was not only good, but exceptionally so. It works the same for modifying verbs:

  • John was fast in finishing his chores.
  • John was quite fast in finishing his chores.

'Quite' once again adds emphasis and notes that John's speed was exceptional.

It can also mean 'completely', as in these examples:

  • John was not quite finished with his homework when it was time for dinner.
  • I am not quite done with this book, but you can borrow it when I finish.

Be Quiet!

A good way to remember 'quiet' is that it rhymes with 'riot' but means quite the opposite. Riots are loud and noisy, whereas all definitions of 'quiet' relate to the 'absence of sound'.

Shhh.. Be very quiet!

'Quiet' can actually function as three parts of speech. Let's take a look at some examples of each one.

Probably the most common usage of 'quiet' is as an adjective, which is a word that helps to modify, or describe, a noun. In the case of 'quiet,' it is describing something that is lacking in sound:

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