Both these words are used to express ‘to a moderate degree.’ But there is a difference in their use. Fairly is used with positive or pleasant idea whereas Rather is used with negative or unpleasant ideas.
No let’s study some examples.
• He is fairly cunning. Pablo is rather a duffer.
• The chest is fairly light. This chest is rather heavy.
(I can lift that easily) (I will need someone to lift)
•The test was fairly easy. The test was rather difficult.
•Bill is fairly rich. Bill is rather poor.
Now let’s see how the same sentence can mean differently to different people.
• The curry is fairly hot. (The speaker likes hot curry)
• The curry is rather hot. (The speaker doesn’t like hot curry)
• Marry is fairly tall. (Tallness is appreciated)
• Marry is rather tall for her age. (Tallness is disliked)
• This flat is fairly big. It is good for me.
• This is flat is rather big. I want a small flat.
Rather, not Fairly is used with comparatives and Too.
• I solved the sum rather better than last time.
• Suzane is rather older than him.
• I think he has invited rather too many people.
• Camilia is rather too much concerned for the loss of her purse.
When Rather is used before certain Adjectives or Adverbs such as Nice, Good, Well, Pretty, Clever, Amusing, it can mean Very. Positive in sense indeed, isn’t it?
• I know Pappu rather well.
• Sofi is rather nice.
• The anecdote is rather amusing.
Quite is a little stronger than Fairly.
• How was the show? Fairly good. Not the best one I’ve seen in 2008.
• How was the show? Quite good. You ought to see that.
• I speak English fairly well.
• I speak English quite well.
Quite means completely when it is used with a word which can express the idea of complement.
Sure right Wrong finished ready certain Unnecessary empty full
Dead different impossible amazing perfect safe determined True
• This blog is quite different from that one.
• It is quite certain this round of depression is temporary.
• Your funds are quite safe in the hands of that financial organization.
• He declared in public that the prime minister was wrong.
Here the use of Quite shows the completeness of thought or idea and I have seen and heard people using ‘Quite’ in this way freely.
Quite is also used with some verbs with the same meaning.
I quite agree with Mr. Obama.
I don’t quite follow his thoughts.
He has quite recovered from debt.
Mark how articles A and An are used with Rather and Quite.
• He is rather a good cricketer.
• He is a rather good player.
• It is quite a nice evening. (Not a quite)
A word of Caution: Quite: Completely, Quiet: Silence, Quit: To leave or to stop. These three words sound and seem identical. I have seen many people using these words as synonyms. Also practice the spelling of these three words as they are different in pronunciation. This seems to be a problem with people using English as their second language and colorizing English words with their local hues. This localized spelling makes these words almost synonymous and people tend to misuse these words. So, be careful while using these words.
Thank you for going through this article.