Sunday, February 20, 2005


In the post below, I used the phrase "quite a few." This makes me wonder: What's the difference between "quite a few" and "quite a lot"? Why does the word "quite" serve opposite functions in those two expressions? That is, in the phrase "quite a lot," the word "quite" is emphasizing the "lot." "Quite a lot" means "much lot-ness," so to speak. But in "quite a few," the word "quite" is not emphasizing few-ness. In fact, "quite a few" really means something more like "much more than a few."

Stuart Buck


Blogger Bill Baar said...

I'd like to know the answer because I use quite quite a lot... a whole lot.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that "quite" is often used in the sense of conveying impressiveness. You say "quite a few" because it is an impressive few. Or "quite a lot," in the same manner.

Other examples are, "That's quite an essay you've written." That doesn't mean that it is a large (or small) essay, but simply that the essay is "impressive."

Another example: "Have you met Ted? He's quite a guy." This means, basically, that Ted is a great guy. Greatness, impressiveness, these are the things I find in common with the usage of quite.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Stuart Buck said...

I disagree. "Quite" can portray impressiveness, but that's not what it's doing in "quite a few." "Quite a few" doesn't mean "an impressive few." It mean, well, a lot of something, i.e., more than a few.

10:01 AM  

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