I have always learned that quick relates to more to time (a quick break) and fast relates more to physical speed.

However, Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries state that Quick:

Moving fast or doing something in a short time.

In addition, there are sample sentences with both quick and fast, such as:

‘While being quick and fast, those involved in the relief and rescue work should maintain their temper, he noted.’

In this sentence, what is the meaning of both then?

  • The question is actually two questions. What you're asking is unclear. And the first question contains a false premise. The car is quick "works" just fine, as you could see from a google search of the phrase using quotation marks. The train is quick is also a fine way to say that a train is fast or that a ride on a train from here to there doesn't take very long. Again, if you google it, you'll see plenty of examples. Finally, we often repeat two words with the same or similar meanings for emphasis. The meaning of both quick and fast in the sentence given is to work quickly. – Jim Reynolds Nov 8 '18 at 11:26
  • @JimReynolds Interesting, a native speaker (BrE) I consulted said that he would never use quick for physical speed, as in "I like quick cars". – John V Nov 8 '18 at 11:28
  • "I like quick cars" google search > 11,600 results – Jim Reynolds Nov 8 '18 at 11:31
  • @JimReynolds Well I can find thousands of hits for things like double negative or other informal constructions but that does not make it proper grammar. The dictionary explicitly says that "quick cars" is not correct usage. – John V Nov 8 '18 at 11:34
  • 1
    JohnV - I'm guessing you are referring to this usage note, which is found under OALD's entry for quick. Even what you read there should be taken with a grain of salt. Notice how it says: These adjectives are frequently used with the following nouns (not "always used"); fast is used especially for things that move at great speed (not "used only"); quick is more often used to describe something done in a short time (not "exclusively used"). – J.R. Nov 8 '18 at 15:02

While the words are related and synonymous in many contexts, they don't quite mean the same thing in all situations.

For example, a slow cat can have quick reflexes.

One person on Yahoo Answers wrote:

I like quick cars but not necessarily fast.

I would take this to mean the writer enjoys a car that can move quickly out of an intersection, but doesn't necessarily cruise at a high speed on the autobahn.

Had the writer said, "I like fast cars but not necessarily quick," then I would assume they would want a car that could easily travel 200 kph on the expressway, but wouldn't care if it's a little sluggish getting started at a red light.

Also, some adjectives simply get associated with certain nouns more than others. And sometimes synonymous words get paired together for emphasis. In a sentence like the one you quoted, for example:

"Relief workers need to be quick and fast," he said.

The speaker is conveying a sense of urgency, and not necessarily expecting anyone to parse those two words carefully, and discern some subtle difference between two.

  • I have also seen this kind of usage when it - I believe - refers to the ability accelerate. Something like "the car accelerates quickly but does not drive very fast". – John V Nov 8 '18 at 14:15

Quick can apply to both time and speed.

I would note that quick has an implication of agile, while fast doesn't.

You can totally say "The car is quick." There are no problems there.

  • Well but you do not normally say "That train is quick", I am sure "fast" is more natural – John V Nov 8 '18 at 10:05
  • @JohnV Yes, that's because trains are generally not very agile. They are heavy, slow to accelerate and can only move along a fixed track. – Omegastick Nov 9 '18 at 1:11

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