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Is it okay to use the modifier 'quite a' with adjective 'vulnerable' in referense to children?

I've been using "quite a vulnerable boy" for a very long time and have always found this phrase useful for writing reports on kindergarten boys that can easily get hurt.

However, I just entered the phrase "quite a vulnerable boy" in Google and found... only 2 results! This looks very suspicious. Before, I would enter even more refined quires and would get hundreds of different results. Is something wrong with that phrase? Perhaps, not in terms of grammar, but in terms of style?

  • He’s quite a good soccer player. that's from LDOCE5, so your phrase should be fine, imo – Michael Login Jun 6 at 20:12
  • @MvLog - But my question is not about "good", but about "vulnerable". – brilliant Jun 6 at 20:16
  • Does it matter? The structure is the same. – Michael Login Jun 6 at 20:17
  • @MvLog - I've run into many cases when the structure was absolutely the same, but due to some other linguistic parameters (style, word's usage, etc.) my phrase was not fine at all. – brilliant Jun 6 at 20:19
  • That's true, but you cannot expect a non-native to remember all arbitrary collocations in English. If no one openly objects—then it goes, imo. Not a native myself, though. – Michael Login Jun 6 at 20:27
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It seems fine to me (native British English speaker).

I believe that "quite" meaning "somewhat" (which I think is the only reasonable reading of this) is mostly a British usage: American English prefers "quite" only in the sense of "very, completely".

In possible support of this, searching the GloWbE corpus for "quite a [adjective]" gives 4501 hits for UK, but only 1484 for US (1429 for AU, and each other variety less than 1000).

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"He's quite a vulnerable boy" is perfectly fine, though it may strike some as a bit stilted. "He's a very vulnerable boy" means the same thing and will sound more natural to many native speakers.

Edit: Well, now that I've read Colin Fine's answer, I guess I should say "he's a very vulnerable boy" means the same thing as "he's quite a vulnerable boy" in American English. It seems the two are far from equivalent in British English!

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