I've stumbled upon a post in a Russian community, which teaches English, that says that "rather" isn't used (is avoided) in modern English, instead "quite" and "really" are used. However, I can't believe it since I know that there's a difference between "rather", "quite", and "really". Take for example this sentence:

  • The room is rather small.

"Rather" means "not too big" here. If we place "quite" instead then it will mean "not that big" while if we place "really" then it will mean "it's not big at all". "really" sort of means "very"

So is it true that "rather" is avoided in Modern English?

  • 1
    How do they arrive at their conclusions? By visiting kindergartens and listening to what the toddlers say?
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 9:46
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    @Tᴚoɯɐuo Btw, the same community claims that the word "pupil" is no longer in use in Modern English. I have no idea where they get this from! Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 9:58
  • Student has eaten pupil's lunch, in modern AmE.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 10:02
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    Also, just because a word isn't used doesn't mean it is being "avoided". really and rather are in different registers.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 10:05
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    I'd rather they didn't simply toss perfectly good English words into the dust bin. It's rather rude, wouldn't you agree? (The word rather is in common use, don't worry.)
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 14:39

2 Answers 2


Speaking from a BrE perspective (there may well be differences with other dialects, but none I know of), rather isn't avoided in modern usage, but it is perhaps less common than other words that can be used synonymously, such as quite, pretty, fairly, very and really.

There are several words in English that can mean either to a small/moderate extent (fairly), or to a great extent (very), depending on the context. One such word is quite. For example:

I guess he's quite tall. - He's a bit tall, but not very tall.

(In surprise) You're quite tall! - You're very tall!

Rather is another example of such a word, but it tends to be used more towards the to a great extent meaning, although generally not quite to the extent of very or really. It can be seen as more formal then some of the other words (like pretty or really).


This Example

In this example, "rather" can be likened to "quite". "Very" is too harsh.

The sentence

The room is rather small

Means that the room is quite / slightly small, not very small.

Other Example

"Rather" may be used in place of "very" when someone is be being polite.


"How was your stay?"

"It was ok, but the room was rather small"

The room may have been tiny, but "rather" would suffice to explain the problem.

In Conclusion

Ultimately, "rather" has multiple meanings depending on the situation, and can be used interchangeably in place of "quite" and "very".

I wouldn't say that "rather" is avoided in modern English. It may be considered slightly old-fashioned, but is still used.

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    I agree. If those Russians are correct, this native speaker never got the memo.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 9:33

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