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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


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
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


Mitigators 2


Intermediate level


But i'm confused about using rather and quite, because both words are similar meanings. When do we use rather and quite?under what situation?

Hello VivianNg,

In general, when they are used with gradable adjectives, 'rather' is a little less strong than 'quite'.

'rather' is also more formal, and is often used when something is more than expected or usual. For example, if you asked me how the film I saw last night was and I said 'Rather good', this suggests that it was better than I expected. I could also say 'Quite good' to be mean much the same thing, but with less of a comment on whether I expected it to be that way.

I'd highly recommend you have a look at the explanations of 'rather' and 'quite' in the Cambridge Dictionary grammar, where you can see lots of different examples.

Hope this helps.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

It's really helpful.

Could you please explain the latter part of the following sentence?

" Her manner is efficient, mild and one suspects rather observant."

What does "one suspects rather observant" mean?


Hello Gracy,

The phrase one suspects has a similar meaning to we can believe or we can think. It's a very literary form, and slightly old-fashioned in modern English



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you so much, Peter.
That’s very helpful.

May I ask you a bit confusing question? Isn't "pretty" an intensifier? When I say: she is a pretty tall girl. Doesn't that mean that she is so tall or does it mean that she is tall but not so tall?!
Thnx in advance

Hello Dina Diab

'She's pretty tall' means something like 'she is a little shorter than tall' or, as you say it, 'she is tall but not so tall'. Since it makes her shorter rather than taller, it's a mitigator.

You might also find this explanation of 'pretty' useful, as it gives more examples.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk,

Does 'pretty' have the same meaning as 'quite' or 'absolutely', if used with strong adjectives?


Hello Jonathan,

We use 'pretty' with gradable adjectives, but not with non-gradable adjectives (such as 'strong' adjectives). You might hear or read exceptions to this rule -- for example, 'How was the film? Pretty awful, actually!') -- and in these cases it means something like 'quite', but these are non-standard uses.

By the way, you can also read more about 'pretty' on this Cambridge Dictionary page.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team