a rather / rather a

Hela

Senior Member
Tunisia - French
Dear members,

I've read in a book that we can use the indefinite article before or after "rather" used as intensifier. When I put it after, the sentence seems strange to me, but is it perfectly good English and has the sentence still the same meaning? Is there a slight difference or none at all?

e.g. This is a rather good job / This is rather a good job.

Is there another intensifier which can take a definite article before or after the adjective?

Many thanks,
Hela
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This is a really good dinner.
    This is really a good dinner.

    This is quite a pleasant evening.
    This is a quite pleasant evening.

    In each case there is a nuance of meaning and/or a more natural choice.
     

    judkinsc

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    It just depends if you want to use it as an adverb or an adjective.

    This is a rather good job. "Rather" = adj.

    This is rather a good job. "Rather" = adv.
     

    Hela

    Senior Member
    Tunisia - French
    Pan, please what is this nuance you're talking about cause this is exactly what I'd like to know.

    Jud, are you sure that "a rather good..." is an adjective? What about "a fairly good job"?

    Another question if you don't mind:

    This morning I had a very quick look at a grammar book (Oxford or Longman, I don't remember) which said that much (in "much nicer"), a little (in "a little tired"? I can't remember the example exactly) and other expressions (I can't remember which) were adverbs of degree whether I thought they could only be adjectives, i.e., quantifiers. Could you tell me more about this, please? Other than the usual intensifiers I know (so, too, enough, fairly, rather, quite, such, very, really) which are the words/expressions that are considered as adverbs of degree ? I'm not talking about the usual adverbs such as completely, extremely, totally, etc., but are these called intensifiers too?

    All the best,

    Hela
     

    nichec

    Senior Member
    Chinese(Taiwan)/English(AE)
    Hela said:
    Dear members,
    Hela said:

    I've read in a book that we can use the indefinite article before or after "rather" used as intensifier. When I put it after, the sentence seems strange to me, but is it perfectly good English and has the sentence still the same meaning? Is there a slight difference or none at all?

    e.g. This is a rather good job / This is rather a good job.

    Is there another intensifier which can take a definite article before or after the adjective?

    Many thanks,
    Hela


    Hi, Hela:
    In my opinion they are of the same meaning. And they all sound okay to me, but I personally prefer to say "this is a rather good job". As for the adj. or adv. I'm really not sure about that, the theory seems strange to me. But the two example panj gave are really nice and I won't feel odd saying the four of them.
     

    nichec

    Senior Member
    Chinese(Taiwan)/English(AE)
    Hela said:
    Pan, please what is this nuance you're talking about cause this is exactly what I'd like to know.
    Hela said:
    Jud, are you sure that "a rather good..." is an adjective? What about "a fairly good job"?

    Another question if you don't mind:

    This morning I had a very quick look at a grammar book (Oxford or Longman, I don't remember) which said that much (in "much nicer"), a little (in "a little tired"? I can't remember the example exactly) and other expressions (I can't remember which) were adverbs of degree whether I thought they could only be adjectives, i.e., quantifiers. Could you tell me more about this, please? Other than the usual intensifiers I know (so, too, enough, fairly, rather, quite, such, very, really) which are the words/expressions that are considered as adverbs of degree ? I'm not talking about the usual adverbs such as completely, extremely, totally, etc., but are these called intensifiers too?

    All the best,

    Hela

    Hi again, Hela:
    Of course much and a little are adv. of degree, think about this:

    You are much nicer than he is.
    You are a little nicer than he is.

    While the first sentence means that you are a lot nicer than him (you can be an angel when he's a devil), the second one means that you are just a little nicer (which means you are probably more or less the same as he is). And here you go, you have also "a lot" and "a bit"

    Let me try to think are there others and get back to you.
     

    judkinsc

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Hela said:
    Jud, are you sure that "a rather good..." is an adjective? What about "a fairly good job"?

    I was confusing in the post above. "Rather" is an adverb, but it can modify the adjective "good", which in this case causes "rather good" to become the comparative adjective form of "good".

    Another question if you don't mind:

    This morning I had a very quick look at a grammar book (Oxford or Longman, I don't remember) which said that much (in "much nicer"), a little (in "a little tired"? I can't remember the example exactly) and other expressions (I can't remember which) were adverbs of degree whether I thought they could only be adjectives, i.e., quantifiers. Could you tell me more about this, please? Other than the usual intensifiers I know (so, too, enough, fairly, rather, quite, such, very, really) which are the words/expressions that are considered as adverbs of degree ? I'm not talking about the usual adverbs such as completely, extremely, totally, etc., but are these called intensifiers too?

    I'd say they're adverbs of degree due to the fact that they can be used without a noun, whereas a true adjective cannot be. "It is, a little." A little what? It has to be an adverb as such, and calling it an adverb of degree only makes sense, since it modifies the sense of the verb to a degree. i.e. a little.
    Also, "tired" is an adjective, not a noun. Adverbs can modify adjectives, but adjectives cannot modify adjectives, else we'd have things like "paper blue pencils." Paper modifying blue? It makes no sense. Phrases seen like this are not two adjectives, but one. "Paper blue", one adjective but two component words. Blue the color of paper. This makes no sense right now, but try it with "sky blue."

    As for the intensifiers, I'd say they're due to our love of complex forms of the comparative in English. "Complex" being more than one word. They can be used either positively or negatively, but they provide a "partial" modification of the sense, keeping it in the comparative rather than the basic or the superlative.

    Many words in English have multiple meanings, depending upon the syntax.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    You asked for an explanation of the nuances of meaning I mentioned. Please note that these are my own personal interpretations, no reference source available:D

    1. This is a really good dinner.
    2. This is really a good dinner.
    (1) is enthusiastic praise - really is a simple intensifier. I imagine myself saying it in the very short intervals between putting more of the dinner into my mouth.
    (2) suggests that I am trying to persuade someone else that it it a good dinner, or alternatively, I am expressing my own surprise. I imagine myself sitting with a sceptical friend looking at our plates.

    3. This is a quite pleasant evening.
    4. This is quite a pleasant evening.
    I hear a similar difference. (3) is a simple expression of opinion, (4) is the kind of thing I might say if I had been expecting something much worse.

    I can't find any difference between "... a rather ..." and "... rather a ..." in any example I can think of:p
     

    Mr.Blue

    Senior Member
    Australia / English
    Sorry for being late to post my comment on this thread , my answer would be that we cannot use an article ( a / an / the ) before quite (at all ).
    - It's quite an old house.
    - It's quite a long way.
    on the other hand, we can use an article before and after rather.
    - It's a rather interesting book.
    - It's rather an interesting book.

    It's a grammatical structure ( rule ) which was taken from ( English grammer in use ) book. I hope I helped :)
     

    Hela

    Senior Member
    Tunisia - French
    Thank you Mr Blue, this is exactly what I have been taught so reading the other threads confused me a little.

    Have a nice weekend,
    Hela
     

    Mr.Blue

    Senior Member
    Australia / English
    you are welcome, the usage of Quite is a little bit tricky ;) have a nice weekend too :)
     

    Hela

    Senior Member
    Tunisia - French
    In "It was rather a disaster" rather is an adverb, but is it called an "intensifier" here ?

    Many thanks
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Mr.Blue said:
    Sorry for being late to post my comment on this thread , my answer would be that we cannot use an article ( a / an / the ) before quite (at all ).
    Your grammar book may state this as a rule, but you will find that "a quite ..." is often used and is accepted at all levels of English.
    A search of the British National Corpus, for example, shows ~650 examples of "a quite" (~5,500 for "quite a") including a substantial number in formal academic works.
     

    Mr.Blue

    Senior Member
    Australia / English
    All languages' rules were set by humen, Spanish , English , Arabic , etc. So they can be broken and considered acceptable in use only if it didn't change the meaning. In my point of view, I think using an article before Quite is a break to the rule, but It became acceptable in use ( to many people ) because it's similar to rather in meaning ,so why it shouldn't be similar to it grammatically !!
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    You claim very assertively, Mr.Blue, that this contravenes a rule of grammar, but without giving us any evidence to support your claim. As "a quite" has been used in English for more than 300 years in formal and informal contexts and by reputable and authorative writers, I have difficulty in accepting that there is such a rule.
     

    bartonig

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Hela said:
    In "It was rather a disaster" rather is an adverb, but is it called an "intensifier" here ?

    Many thanks
    "They were all out for 150, there are two broken shoulders, there have been allegations of offensive behaviour off-pitch and the forthcoming tour to Pakistan is in jeopardy. You say the tour was a success but I would say, rather, it was a disaster."

    Rather is not an adverb of degree in this sentence. Here it is serving as something of a cross between an adverb and a conjunction. The speaker is reformulating the notion about the tour as expressed by the implied first speaker (that it was a success). Rather can be moved:

    "They were all out for 150, there are two broken shoulders, there have been allegations of offensive behaviour off-pitch and the forthcoming tour to Pakistan is in jeopardy. You say the tour was a success but I would say it was rather a disaster."

    If the speaker stresses rather (a little pause before and after) or stresses disaster the sentence has the same meaning as the one above.
     

    bartonig

    Senior Member
    UK English
    No. An adverb, yes but not an intensifier. I'd say it is something of a cross between an adverb and a conjunction or rather, an adverb with some properties normally associated with conjunctions.
     

    Mr.Blue

    Senior Member
    Australia / English
    panjandrum said:
    You claim very assertively, Mr.Blue, that this contravenes a rule of grammar, but without giving us any evidence to support your claim. As "a quite" has been used in English for more than 300 years in formal and informal contexts and by reputable and authorative writers, I have difficulty in accepting that there is such a rule.

    Dear panjandrum,

    Indeed I claimed very assertively, perhaps because it doesn't just state my opinion but some others opiniones , I asked my English teacher today to confirm this rule and she did ! Besides, This is a link http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv168.shtml where a grammarian answers questions , and there you can find that s/he mentioned the rule of "Quite" which emphasize what I said previously. I hope I persuaded you :)

    Thanks.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I'm still puzzled.
    I can't find a statement on that BBC link that says "... a quite ..." is not acceptable, that it contravenes a grammatical rule. It doesn't give any examples of such usage, but then it doesn't set out to be comprehensive. (I am quite sure that Roger Woodham is a man, by the way:) )

    If you look HERE, you will see Mr Woodham saying:
    Material here has a quite specific meaning and refers to evidence or information which is relevant to a court case.
    It seems that you and your English teacher are a very small minority.
     

    Mr.Blue

    Senior Member
    Australia / English
    panjandrum said:
    I'm still puzzled.
    I can't find a statement on that BBC link that says "... a quite ..." is not acceptable, that it contravenes a grammatical rule. It doesn't give any examples of such usage, but then it doesn't set out to be comprehensive.

    (I am quite sure that Roger Woodham is a man, by the way )**
    It seems that you and your English teacher are a very small minority.

    I'm impressed :eek: and confused :confused: at the same time , he stated this rule (( quite with a / an + (adjective) noun )) and gave some examples of quite a without clarifying that an article can be used before Quite. But when I saw his example as you brought it up from another page of the web-site , it seems to me that a quite can be acceptable in use.

    I think that I'm now more likely to believe that a quite is correct in use. Anyway, I will use quite a in written language incase someone like me occurred to correct my essay or report. :p

    **( By the way, I didn't pay attention to the grammarian's name, so I didn't know if he is "she or he" :) ).

    Thanks panj for clearing all this up !
     
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