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They laughed, they cried, but it was not quite better than ''Cats.'' They were there, after all, to buy Memories. (The New York Times)

“Oh my God! Wembley Stadium. Yeah, my God. So it’s going to be quite bigger.” It certainly is. The other difference from the time Domingo, Pavarotti and Carreras entertained the multitudes during the Euro 96 football tournament is that this time Domingo won’t be singing a note. (The Telegraph)

I want to take this opportunity to thank Steve Waugh, because to all us youngsters - and I am quite younger than him - he has been an inspiration. (BBC Sport)

My grammar book, written by an Italian teacher, says that "Quite is not used directly before comparatives", but I found several occurences of this usage.

Question is, can we use "quite" directly before comparatives?

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SHORT VERSION:
Don’t use it.

LONG VERSION:
In your first example not quite better is not parsed as [not][quite better] but as [not quite][better]; that is, not quite is a fixed expression meaning ‘almost’, ‘falling just short of’. This is fine.

But this not quite does not behave the same way as bare quite. Quite ADJer is and not unknown, but it is very rare, comparable to very ADJer. Take a look at this Google Ngram, where I have multiplied the instances of quite better and very better by 1000 and they are still outranked by much better:

QuiteMuchVeryBetter

I note that your second and third examples are uttered by a native speaker of Italian and a speaker of Indian English.

There is as far as I know no reason why very and quite should not be used with comparatives; but they aren’t.

  • 1
    I think your penultimate paragraph should probably have come first, since presumably that "misparsing" is what prompted OP to ask the question in the first place. It's equally valid to replace not quite by, for example, almost, or [very] nearly - which are perfectly normal words to occur before ADJer forms. – FumbleFingers Apr 27 '13 at 17:03
  • Out of curiosity, I took a peek at some of the quite better hits. One context where I saw it repeatedly used is along the lines of "I'm feeling quite better now," but, of course, better in that context is state of being, not a comparative. So even some of those "quite better" instances would be false hits. – J.R. Apr 27 '13 at 19:04

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