Quiet or Quite?

By Maeve Maddox

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The words quiet (two syllables) and quite (one syllable) are frequently confused.

Quiet! Please be quite. Quiet!

I encountered this bit of dialogue in a mystery published by W.W. Norton. A character is being kidnapped and the words are spoken by one of the kidnappers. Obviously all three words are meant to be quiet.

Quiet can be used as an adjective meaning “of little activity,” or as a noun meaning “tranquility” or “silence.”

After lunch the children enjoyed an hour of quiet play. (adjective)
We enjoyed the quiet of the countryside. (noun)

Quite is an adverb and has the sense of “totally” or “completely.”

She was quite exhausted after the warm-up exercise.

Quiet can also be used as a verb meaning “to cause to be quiet.”

The man behind us shouted “Quiet down, can’t you?”
The leader quieted the protesters so the mayor could be heard.

Note: the words “quieten” and “quietened” are not standard American usage.

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15 Responses to “Quiet or Quite?”

  • Tom

    No they’re not. These two words are never confused. You’re kidding right? This would only happen as a typo.

  • Maeve

    Yes, it was a typo, but there it was, in a printed book.
    Someone mixed them up.

  • Daniel

    Tom, if the confusion happened on a printed book, I think it could very easily happen around the Internet, don’t you think 🙂 ?

  • Zach Everson

    “Quite” should be avoided as it rarely adds meaning.

  • Deb

    I see this typo very often! Mostly when people are trying to say “quiet”…they type “quite”. I am surprised at how often this happens.
    Another very common “mistake” is the confusion on the part of people when it comes to using “to” and “too” and “there” , “their” and “they’re”. Many, many people do not know the proper use of and/or spellings of these words. It is amazing.

  • wordsnob

    oh ,no, have a friend to regularly uses “quite” when he means “quiet”.. drives me nuts…and the same person sent an email saying ” should of joined us for lunch” …hmmmm…

  • Djerba

    I used Google just to verify !

    I think many people are making this confusion 😉

    Thank you 🙂

  • OMAR

    would you mind sending me copy of Basic English Grammar ? I will be thankful .

  • Ambo

    This is not a typp. I am doing a smartboard presentation in college for this because over 50% of Americans dont truly understand when to use which one

  • Steve

    Using quite instead of quiet is, 99% of the time, a spelling mistake or typo. Maybe 1% of people think quite means quiet. At least I hope so.

  • Nate_Dogg_1988

    Reply to mr Osmosis.

    This must include you??

    “witch one it is using that really matters to be honest….”

    Such poor use of the english language is fail.

    No sexy time for you – and no babies 😛


  • Joe

    I see this all the time. Other common fails are:

    should have – should of, could of, would of
    you’re – your
    lose – loose
    too – to
    off – of
    know – no
    than – then
    waste – waist of time
    weather – whether
    worthwhile – worth wild
    except – accept
    role – roll
    complement – compliment
    fare – fair
    in other words – another words
    for all intents and purposes – for all intensive purposes
    Putting apostrophes on plurals

    For an educated person, there really is no excuse to make any of these mistakes.

  • Trenley

    Joeon June 25, 2012 3:28 am:

    Actually, putting apostrophes on plurals can be done when you’re showing the plurals’ ownership (see what I did there?) – “the parents’ dilemma over raising the child.”

    The “should of” comes out of misunderstanding the contraction of should have, “should’ve”, where the have becomes “of” when pronounced. Pretty sure Weird Al covers it in Word Crimes”

    But add to your list an s after an apostrophe after an s, i.e., “Bridget Jones’ Diary” not “Bridget Jones’s (i.e., Joneses) Diary,”

  • Pk gumansingh

    It is making ——- longer than I expected?
    What is the correct answer
    Can u give me correct answer ??

  • Maeve

    Pk gunmansingh,
    The expression is “to take longer than expected” (not “make”)
    For something that is taking a lot longer than I expected, I would say, “It is taking much longer than I expected.”
    For something that is taking a little longer, I might say, “It is taking rather longer than I expected.”
    “more” would not be correct because “longer” is already a comparative form.
    One would not say, “some longer,” but one could say, “somewhat longer.”
    Likewise with “quite.” It would not work by itself, but you could say, “It is taking “quite a bit longer…”

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