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.

We call these words mitigators.


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.

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 - rather - slightly

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 (than the other one).

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

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

Adjectives as intensifiers:

We use some adjectives as intensifiers:

total  - complete
utter  - perfect

We say:

He’s a complete idiot.
They were talking utter nonsense.

… but we do not say:

The idiot was complete.
The nonsense they were talking was utter.

Task 1


Task 2





'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,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your reply!

Ok thank you very much

Hello , I have a question : is it the same to tell fairly difficult, rather difficult, quite difficult? Or there is a difference in the meaning ? I am waiting for the answer and thank you very much

Hello Ilam,

The meanings of these are all very similar and are dependent on context and tone. For example, all of them could mean anything from 'not extremely difficult' to 'not easy at all'.

How was the test?

I'm worried about my result, to be honest. I thought it was fairly difficult.


Do you think I could do it?

Of course. It's fairly difficult but you would be fine.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very very very much for your answer . Please could you explain me the meanings of ' quite ' in British and American English ? I'll be very happy if you explain me all the meanings of it .

Hello! I've just sent you a message about a problem I was having here, but I found out what was happening, so, problem solved :)

Hello Leticia,

I'm glad you were able to figure out how to get the exercises to work! Don't hesitate to ask if you have any other problems.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team