Level: intermediate

Mitigators are the opposite of intensifiers. When we want to make an adjective less strong we use these words: fairly, rather, quite

By the end of the day we were rather tired.
The film wasn’t great but it was quite exciting.

and in informal English: pretty

We had a pretty good time at the party.

Be careful! (level: advanced)

quite

When we use quite with a normal adjective, it makes the adjective less strong:

The food was quite bad.
(=
The food was bad but not very bad.)

My nephew is quite clever.
(=
My nephew is clever but not very clever.)

But when we use quite with a strong adjective, it means the same as absolutely:

The food was quite awful.
(=
The food was absolutely awful.)

As a child he was quite brilliant.
(=
As a child he was absolutely brilliant.)

Level: intermediate

Mitigators with comparatives

We use these words and phrases as mitigators:

a bit
just a bit
a little
a little bit
rather
slightly
just a little bit
 

She’s a bit younger than I am.
It takes two hours on the train but it is a little bit longer by road
This one is rather bigger.

We use slightly and rather as mitigators with comparative adjectives in front of a noun:

This is a slightly more expensive model than that.
This is a rather bigger one than that.

Mitigators 1

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Mitigators 2

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Intermediate level

Comments

Hi there,
I have some questions related to noun modifiers.
"There is a sixteen foot wall between us." I believe this is correct but why singular noun is used in such noun modifiers. is it correct to use "feet" in this scenario?
Similar examples, five kilometer journey, ten story building, these also using singular nouns. Please explain.
Regards

Hi SajadKhan,

That's very observant of you and you are right: when we use a number and a unit of measurement before a noun in this way, the unit is used in the singular, just as in all of your examples. If we speak about a distance or the height of something, then this rule does not apply (e.g. 'It's 10 kilometres from Clare to here' or 'Mt Everest is 8048 metres high') -- it is only when the number and unit precede the noun. It's as if they were an adjective describing the type of noun it is.

As far as I know, there is no reason for this other than it being the way people have come to speak English over many years.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
Is it same to use 'quite' in place of 'slightly', 'rather' or 'a little bit' when using with a comparative. e.g
It takes two hours on the train but it is quite longer by road.
This is a quite more expensive model than that.
Are these correct?
Regards

Hello SajadKhan,

We don't use 'quite' with a comparative in this way; instead, you could say something like 'it is a little longer by road' or 'a bit longer'. 

You can say 'quite a bit longer', but this means that it's more than just a little longer -- it's considerably longer. Or for your second example, you could say something like 'This model is quite a bit more expensive than that one', though again that means the price difference is large. 

if it's only slightly more expensive, you'd best say 'This model is a bit more expensive' instead.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Could you please help me with how to use "extremely + adjective"?
Is it used with strong adjectives or ordinary ones ? for example: "extremely exhausted"
Thank you.

Hi Ahmed Imam,

'extremely' is not normally used with strong adjectives, so 'extremely exhausted', for example, is not correct. You can use it with gradable adjectives but not non-gradable adjectives – follow the link to see a more complete explanation.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

'She's a bit younger than I am'. Can we also say 'She's a bit younger than me'?

Hello Wang Zijian,

Yes, you can, and they mean the same thing. The second one is more common in informal contexts, but that's not to say that the first one is formal.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your reply!

Ok thank you very much

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