The word quiet references something that is still, calm, silent, or with little disturbance. Quite is an adverb that means “to a complete or considerable extent.”
What is the difference between quite and quiet?
One of the most common errors we make as writers involves “quiet” and “quite.” We spell these words nearly the same, yet they have completely different meanings, pronunciations, and we use them for entirely different contexts.
The word “quiet” is a noun, adjective, or verb that references the quality or state of silence, calm, little activity, or moderation. For example,
- “The interruptions are ruining my peace and quiet.”
- “I need the room to be quiet so that I can write.”
The adverb “quite” means “to a considerable” or “maximum extent,” but we also use it as an exclamation to express agreement (like “indeed”). For example,
- “I’m quite tired and would like to go to sleep.”
- “We are not quite finished with our grammar lesson.”
- “English grammar is very difficult.” “Quite.”
The verb “quit” is another “qui-” word that we can easily confuse for “quite” and “quiet” (especially if you’re pulling one of those all-nighters). The best solution to avoiding the wrong word is to make sure you understand the two words entirely and to proofread your writing (spell checkers are notorious for missing these typos).
What does quite mean?
The word quite is an adverb and exclamation, where the latter expresses an agreement or understanding of something stated (especially within British English). For example, if someone told you the weather was nice today, you might agree by responding with “quite” (similarly to “indeed”).
In contrast, the adverb quite references a quality of something that exists or performs “to a particular extent or degree.” For instance, we often use quite as a submodifier to mean “wholly,” “completely,” “to an extreme,” or “to the greatest extent.”
- “If you’re ready for dinner, the table is quite full.”
- “Well, I’m quite prepared to demolish this meal.”
American English, in particular, uses “quite” as an intensifier to mean “very” or “really.” For example,
- “I’m quite tired of listening to your negative commentary.”
- “Yes, I’m quite upset too.”
The adverb can also describe something as “to a considerable” or “fairly significant extent,” enabling us to use phrases like “quite some” and “quite a” to reference a notable amount or something we consider remarkable.
- “That was quite the review. Don’t you agree?”
- “Yes, she is quite a writer in every sense of the word.”
- “Marina has been writing for The Wall Street Journal for quite some time now.”
Additional phrases of quite include “not quite” (meaning “not completely or entirely”) or “not quite the thing,” which references something that is socially unacceptable, unhealthy, or unwell. For example,
- “I’m not quite finished with the movie yet.”
- “Yes, I struggled to enjoy it too. It’s not quite the thing to watch after a hard day’s work.”
- All the way, altogether, at length, completely, down to the ground, entirely, exactly, fully, heartily, in whole, perfectly, thoroughly, through and through, to bits, to pieces, to the hilt/max, totally, utterly, well, wholly.
- A bit, after a sort, a little, a tad, a touch, enough, fairly, kind of, moderately, more or less, of sorts, pretty, rather, relatively, something, somewhat, sort of, to a degree.
- Barely, half, halfway, hardly, incompletely, just, kind of, part, partially, partly, scarcely, slightly.
- Especially, exceedingly, extremely, half, halfway, highly, incompletely, part, particularly, partially, partly, surpassingly, very.
Etymology of quite
According to The Oxford English Dictionary, Middle English quite stems from the archaic or “obsolete” adjective quite (a variant of the verb quit).
What does quiet mean?
The word quiet appears in English as an adjective, adverb, noun, or verb to reference a quality of calm, silence, or moderation.
Quiet as a noun
The mass noun quiet references the quality or state of something with little to no noise, movement, color, chaos, or disturbance. As noted by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, we use the noun in the phrase “on the quiet” to mean “in secret” or “in a secret manner.”
- “The children’s roughhousing interrupted my evening quiet.”
- “Is it too much to ask for some peace and quiet?”
- “I appreciate the quiet of the countryside.”
- “We would like to keep this on the quiet, if possible.”
Calm, calmness, hush, lull, pause, peace, quietness, quietude, repose, serenity, silence, still, stillness, tranquillity.
Bustle, clamor, commotion, noise, racket, sound, tumult, turmoil, unrest, uproar.
Quiet as an adverb
The adverb quiet (mainly written as “quietly”) means “in a quiet manner” or “without motion.”
- “My mouth guard allows me to sleep quiet.”
- “Without my dentist’s help, I wouldn’t sleep so quietly.”
Immovably, inactively, motionlessly, quietly, still.
Boisterously, garishly, loudly.
Quiet as an adjective
The adjective quiet often describes something as still, calm, secluded, or making little sound. However, we can also use the adjective to describe something as discrete, moderate, understated, reserved, or even secret.
- “The rooster and turkey have been suspiciously quiet today.”
- “The quiet boy didn’t make a peep of noise.”
- “I prefer electric cars for their quiet engines.”
- “Her ex was a quiet person when it came to expressing his emotions.”
- “I’m looking forward to living the quiet life as a country mouse.”
- “The stock market has been relatively quiet today.”
- “You need to keep quiet about our tricks, or we’ll get into trouble with mom.”
- “The prime minister signed the deal to keep both factions quiet to the press.”
Calm, conservative, covert, equable, hushed, low-key, mild, moderate, muted, peaceful, placid, repressed, restrained, restful, secret, secluded, serene, sober, still, stilly, subdued, temperate, toned-down, tranquil, unpretentious.
Agitated, angry, boisterous, clamorous, deafening, flamboyant, flaring, garish, gaudy, glitzy, loud, noisy, ostentatious, raucous, rip-roaring, roistering, rowdy, swanky, tumultuous, turbulent, unsettled.
Quiet as a verb
To quiet is to make something calm, still, silent, orderly, or to free something from dispute or doubt. Additional verb forms include “quieted” (past participle), “quieting” (present participle), and “quiets” (present tense).
- “We must find a way to quiet their complaints at once.”
- “The children quieted down for a nap.”
- “I found the sudden change in pressure to be quieting and peaceful.”
- “Wait here while the classroom quiets.”
Calm, cool it, compose, hush, lull, mute, relax, settle, silence, shush, soothe, still, tranquilize, unwind, zone out.
Act up, agitate, carry on, cut up, disquiet, disturb, fool around, horse around, perturb, show off, stir, upset, vex.
Etymology of quiet
According to Lexico, Middle English quiet was once a noun that “denoted peace as opposed to war.” English adopted the noun from Old French via the Latin quies and quiet–, meaning “repose” or “quiet.”
How to remember the difference between quite and quiet?
The best way to avoid confusing “quite” for “quiet” (and vice versa) is to focus on the pronunciation of the words. Both words start with a “qui” (pronounced “kwah“) but have different endings:
- Quiet (two syllables) is pronounced “kwahy-et.”
- Quite (one syllable) is pronounced “kwahyt” with a sharp -t- and silent -e- (like the word “white”).
Additional reading for quiet vs. quite
If you enjoy learning about tricky English words, be sure to check out similar grammar lessons by The Word Counter, such as:
- Biannual vs. biennial?
- Calvary vs. cavalry?
- Cue vs. queue?
- Imminent vs. eminent?
- Translucent vs. transparent?
Test how well you understand the difference between quite and quiet with the following multiple-choice questions.
- True or false?: The word quite is found in two different parts of speech.
- English speakers may use quite as a ____________.
- The word quite is an adjective meaning _______________.
d. None of the above
- When you need to keep something a secret, the correct phrase to use is ___________.
a. On the quiet
b. Keep quiet
c. Quite a bit
d. A and B
- The word quiet is never a _____________.
Choose the right word for the following sentences:
- “Molecular biology is __________ the topic.”
- “The students are __________ reading amongst themselves.”
- “He said the children are noisy, and I __________ agree.”
- “Quiet.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2021.
- “Quiet.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2021.
- “Quite.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2021.
- “Quite.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2021.
- “Quite.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2021.