He's not really bright / He's not that bright


Hello everybody,

I'd like to ask native English speakers if it sounds natural to say 'He's not really bright' or should I say 'that' instead of 'really' in the negative sentence: 'He's not that bright'?

And I have the same question about 'quite': does it sound natural if I say 'I'm not quite keen on history'? Or do I have to use 'that': 'I'm not that keen on history'?

Thank you in advance,
  • rhitagawr

    Senior Member
    British English
    Both really and that are correct. That implies some sort of limit to his brightness: He's bright but he's not that bright.
    He's really bright means he's very bright. But I'd say the opposite - He's not really bright - means he only pretends or appears to be bright. He's not really bright. He only comes across as bright because everyone else is so stupid.

    Not quite keen on doesn't sound right to me. It sounds as if you're almost keen on history but not quite. Not very keen on is better. That keen is all right. I'm doing A-level history but I want to do English at university. I'm not that keen on history.


    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    All of your example sentences sound natural to me. "He's not really bright" may have a different meaning depending on emphasis: "He's not really bright" = "He seems bright, but in reality he isn't." Or, "He's not really bright." = "He may have some good qualities, but being bright isn't one of them." You can even also say, "He's not really that bright."
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