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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



Hi Team,
Is it possible to use "She’s a bit younger than me" ? as in the above explanation it has used as "She’s a bit younger than I am." instead. 
Could you please help me on this.
Thank you.

Hello sanover,

Yes, you can say than me instead of than I am. Using an object pronoun (e.g. me) after than is more informal, whereas subject pronouns + a verb is more formal.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Mr. Kirk ,I will work much harder than last time to memorize all of them.
Best wishes

Dear Mr Peter M,
First off all thanks for your kind reply in Christmas scene.
I want to ask about the intensifiers with particular adjectives, I noted it`s informal words, should we memorize them for using in speaking or only we have to know the rule of it to mark it in test or Know it when we see it in any article.
I didn't`t see the ILTS section tell now put have use it in the exam.
in the task of intensifiers with comparative and superlative there is no instruction to select more than one intensifier .
Best Regards

Hi Safaa S.,

As is explained on the Intensifiers page, only some combinations of intensifiers and adjectives are possible. Most of these combinations must simply be memorised, though reading extensively in English will also help you learn them. These are used in both speaking and writing, and can be tested on exams like the IELTS, so I would recommend that you learn as many as you can.

Thanks for alerting us to the missing instructions in the exercise on comparative and superlative adjectives - we really appreciate your helping us improve LearnEnglish!

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, I have two doubts.
1. If I'm asked to mark the adjective in the sentence, 'The wind is quite strong today.', should I underline both 'quite' and 'strong'?
2. Can noun modifiers marked as adjectives? In the sentence, 'I bought a leather purse today.', can I say 'leather' is adjective since it describes the noun 'purse'?

Hello Vidyaarthi,

1. In the sentence you provide the adjective is 'strong'; the modifier 'quite' is an adverb, not an adjective.  Therefore, if you need to underline the adjective then you should underline only 'strong'.  If, however, you are asked to underline the adjective phrase, then the whole of 'quite strong' should be underlined.

2. In English it is not uncommon for the same word (in terms of spelling and/or pronunciation) to have several possible functions in the sentence.  The word 'leather' can be a noun or an adjective, as it is in your example.  It's even possible for 'leather' to be a verb in some varieties of slang (meaning to beat someone up in a fight)!


Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, Peter. As usual your reply is quite concise.(quite being an adverb and concise an adjective, eh?)
English grammar floors me!

I have a little difficult time understanding the mean of the world rather, this world decrease or intensify the adjective.
mean, in the sentence "it was after midnight and the children were rather tired" mean that the children was exhaust or the children have yet some energy.

Hello albaisabelcasallas,

You are correct that this word can have different meanings and it depends on the context and also on the intonation of the speaker. The preceding sentences are very important. For example:

'You were driving very fast.'
'Well, we were driving rather fast, I suppose, but...' [here, 'rather' contrasts with 'very' and mitigates the adjective 'fast']

'You were driving very slowly.'
'Do you think so? I thought we were driving rather fast, to be honest.' [here, 'rather fast' contrasts with 'very slowly' and intensifies the meaning]

As you can see, the meaning is context-dependent, and the same is true of your example.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team