What is the meaning of rather in the following sentence?

I can speak english rather fluently.

From online dictionaries, I found different definitions: quite, to a slight degree, to some degree, fairly ,and so on. So I am a little bit confused with the exact meaning of "rather". Consider the following degrees from 1 to 10, which number do you give to "rather fluent"?

1. very little: beginner english learner

5. not fluent, not influent!

10. very much: a native english speaker

Does rather have a negative or positive connotation, or is it neutral?

  • 1
    The word "rather" is generally thought of as an intensifier - but in fact, He's rather annoyed could mean EITHER He's very annoyed OR He's slightly annoyed. Probably the first sense is more common overall, but you always need to consider the context (which might make it obvious it's being used with that second "downplaying" sense). Sep 1, 2021 at 16:49

1 Answer 1


Cambridge explains that

We use rather to give emphasis to an adjective or adverb. It has a similar meaning to quite when quite is used with gradable words. It is more formal than quite.

From your sentence, we could understand that the speaker is not 100% fluent in English, but rather close to it.

However, rather fluently can mean very fluently, too. People often use it in a self-effacing way out of modesty, moderating or attenuating their skill. Not in a professional environment, though - there, not modesty, but rather honesty and accuracy is required.

  • It's worth mentioning that in the UK, "quite" can mean "somewhat" or "very" depending on tone, whereas in North American English, "quite" always means "very". So comparing "rather" with "quite" doesn't make anything clear. Which meaning of "quite"?
    – gotube
    Sep 2, 2021 at 3:44

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