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I have a hard time understanding some definitions and usage of quite in English Grammar Today (via Cambridge Dictionaries Online). The explanation is as follows:

Quite a bit, quite a few, quite a lot

We often use quite with a bit, a few and a lot to refer to large amounts and quantities:

You should ask Mez for some advice. He knows quite a bit about gardening.

(I don't know if he knows a lot or a little about gardening, because of a bit is used here.)

A: We bought quite a lot of new furniture, didn’t we?
B: Yeah, quite a bit.

(Do quite a lot and quite a bit suggest the same meaning? Does quite a bit mean "very little"?)

There were quite a few of us at the meeting.

(What does quite a few mean? Does it mean "very little"?)

We also use quite a bit and quite a lot to mean ‘often’:

Do you come here quite a bit?

(Do quite a bit, quite a lot, and quit a few have the same meaning in this context? If Not, why?)

I used to go sailing quite a lot.

(Can we use quite a bit or quite a few here without changing the meaning of this sentence?)


Quite + a lot /a bit + comparatives

We often use quite a lot and quite a bit with a comparative adjective or adverb to mean ‘much’:

We went to Italy when I was quite a bit younger.

(Can we use quite a lot or quite a few here without changing the meaning of the sentence?)

The new truck is quite a lot heavier than the old model.

(Can we use quite a bit and quite a few here without changing the meaning of sentence?)

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"Quite a bit" and "quite a lot" do mean the same thing. The difference is that "quite a bit" uses "a bit" ironically (saying the opposite of the truth) or in understatement (saying something is less in number or importance than it actually is), while "quite a lot" is literal.

The usage of the three sayings, "quite a bit", "quite a few", and "quite a lot", also differs:

  • "Quite a bit" means that you have a lot of something. It can be used to say something is in greater quantity, for example: "I have quite a bit of work to do today." In this example "bit" is the subject described as being "of work.
  • "Quite a few" also means you have a lot of something, but specifically quantity. You could say: "I own quite a few pencils", or "We moved quite a few pieces of furniture." "Few" is not the noun, and the phrase must be followed by a noun.
  • "Quite a lot", just like the previous two, means you have a lot of something. It can be used wherever you could just say "a lot" by itself. For example, you could say "I have a lot of bananas", or you could say "I have quite a lot of bananas". "Quite a lot of bananas" is more than "a lot of bananas"
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    I don't hear anything sarcastic in "quite a bit". It does have a very different meaning from "a bit", but that is the nature of idiom. – Colin Fine May 2 '16 at 18:17
  • @ColinFine I suppose ironically is better than sarcastically... In essence, it is not a bit. – Scott Mikutsky May 2 '16 at 19:08
  • Could you please explain your answer with interpretation of those two sentences ? And what about. Quite a few ? And what is saracastically or understantement ? – yubraj May 3 '16 at 0:23
  • @yubrajsharma "Quite a bit", "Quite a lot", and "Quite a few" all mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably. Sarcastically refers to saying the opposite of what is meant: you may say you have "quite a few" of something, but you actually have many. Understatement would be saying that something is less in number or importance than it actually is: again, saying you have "a few" when in reality you have many. – Scott Mikutsky May 3 '16 at 1:24
  • Do you mean 'quite a few' and 'quite a bit' refers to something small quentity and 'quite a lot' refers to'large amount or quentity? But the definition says : We often use quite with a bit, a few and a lot to refer to large amounts and quantities. I'm confused about it. – yubraj May 3 '16 at 4:50
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Quite a bit, quite a lot and quite a few all mean:

  • a large amount, but not a very, very large amount

When the stress is on quite it emphasises not a very very large amount. Otherwise and especially when the strongest stress is on the last word (bit, lot, few), it emphasises the large amount part of the meaning:

  • Bob says you know a lot about gardening
  • I know quite a lot.

Here the speaker is emphasising that they don't know a very, very large amount.

  • Bob says you know about gardening.
  • Yes I know quite a lot.

Here the speaker is emphasising that they know a large amount.


The word quite is used in this way in many types of sentence. For example look at the following sentence about running:

  • I am quite fast.

This means that I am not very, very fast. I am not Usain Bolt! Compare that with:

  • I am quite fast.

This means that I am definitely fast.

  • Hello! I'm not quite following this answer although it has helped rather a bit (I take it rather functions the same way as quite here). My lack of understanding flows from your seeming emphasis that either quite or the other word (bit, lot, few) is usually or often emphasized when the phrase is used, but in my experience as a native speaker of American English such phrases are said with "even" stress, without stressing either quite or the other word. Could you speak to this? Or am I misunderstanding your meaning? – Alan Carmack May 3 '16 at 12:49
  • As an example, 95% of the time I would read or say I am quite fast as not emphasizing anything (neither quite nor fast). So I would find the meaning in the unstressed phrase as a whole and not on a stressed portion. The same for quite a bit, etc. – Alan Carmack May 3 '16 at 12:52
  • @AlanCarmack You may have missed the "otherwise and especially if" part of the answer - which indicates that there may be no marked stress. However, this answer is slightly simplified for learners who don't know a lot about pronunciation. If I was writing for ELU, or a pron student, then what it would say is that when the nucleus falls on quite (because the bit/lot/few has become deaccented and moved out of focus), then quite takes on contrastive stress where it contrasts with some already mentioned idea of a large amount ... – Araucaria May 3 '16 at 13:05
  • @AlanCarmack However, if the nucleus falls on the last word, then it just gives the idea of a large amount. When the pitch movement involved in the nuceus is very marked this idea is being emphasised. – Araucaria May 3 '16 at 13:07
  • Do you mean 'quite a few' and 'quite a bit' refers to something small quentity and 'quite a lot' refers to'large amount or quentity? But the definition says : We often use quite with a bit, a few and a lot to refer to large amounts and quantities. I'm confused about it. – yubraj May 3 '16 at 14:41

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