Rather a with a noun is more common in formal language than in informal language, particularly in writing:

  1. It was rather a surprise to find them in the house before me.

Rather + verb
We can use rather to emphasise verbs. We use it most commonly with verbs such as enjoy, hope, like.

  1. I was rather hoping you'd forgotten about that.

  2. He rather liked the idea of a well paid job in the japan. http://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/rather

No 1. says that we use rather a+noun in formal writiing.what's the meaning of rather when we use it in this way? Are there other adverbs or words to replace the use of "rather" in 'formal' writing and in informal (spoken) language?

No 2. says we use rather with verb to emphasize verb. What does this mean? Does rather still carry the meaning of "more than average" or "to some extent" when we use rather with verbs ?

  • You should always add the source when you copy text, even from a Facebook post. "Rather" (the adverb) is used in both formal and informal speech and writing. I'm not sure what Amresh uses as his authority here. When used in a sentence like He rather liked the idea... it means to some extent or somewhat. Somewhat could be used in its stead. If to some extent (which is more formal) is used, it is slightly more idiomatic if placed after the verb: I was hoping to some extent... Sep 22, 2016 at 2:54
  • @........I'm waiting for answers.
    – yubraj
    Sep 23, 2016 at 14:51
  • @yubrajsharma, nobody has answered because you question assumes that the information provided by your source is correct. From the British perspective, it's certainly not. Maybe somebody who knows more about Indian English can answer. In some contexts, quite can be used instead of rather, though it is not any more or less formal. It is certainly more common in this context: books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – JavaLatte
    Sep 24, 2016 at 17:14
  • @javalette,Thank you, and what do you think of this question ell.stackexchange.com/questions/103843/…
    – yubraj
    Sep 24, 2016 at 20:47
  • @javalette, I don't think that A person who knows Indian English should answer this question. The source of this question is cambridge, so, A british English speaker or anyone who have knowledge could answer this question.
    – yubraj
    Sep 25, 2016 at 17:39

1 Answer 1


I'm a native speaker of American English and from my perspective this usage is the epitome of British speech. If I used the word 'rather' with a noun or verb I would be seen to be artificially affecting my speech to seem more British.

In American English we use 'rather' with adverbs and adjectives to soften the effect of the judgement behind them.

That was done rather well.

This means that it was done well, but perhaps with some caveat. The speaker doesn't want the listener to assume that it was done really well, or does not want to admit that they think it was done really well, for some reason.

It's my impression that the word 'rather' works similarly when used with a noun or verb in British English. All of the examples presented show 'rather' describing an emotional state

rather a surprise
I rather liked
I was rather hoping

The British are famous for their 'reserve'. They don't normally express strong emotions. In these cases at least, the word 'rather' serves to add reserve to the emotional expression that follows it.

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