Quiet, Quit, and Quite: How to Choose the Right Word

The terms sound and look similar but have different meanings and uses

Quiet
The boy put his forefinger to his lips and whispered, "Be quiet".

Ian Shaw / Getty Images

The words "quiet," "quit," and "quite" look and sound somewhat alike, but their meanings are quite different. As a noun, "quiet" means silent (as in "the quiet of a summer evening"); as an adjective, "quiet" means calm or still (as in "a quiet place to write"); and, as a verb, "quiet" means to make or become quiet (as in, "He tried to quiet the crowd"). The verb "quit" means to free or to leave (as in "I plan to quit my job"). The adverb "quite" means entirely, positively, or to a considerable extent (as in "The test was quite difficult").

How to Use Quiet

Quiet has slightly different uses, whether it's a noun, adjective, or verb, particularly in how it's used grammatically. As a noun, use the term to replace a subject or object in a sentence, such as: "The quiet in the rural town was driving him crazy; he was used to the noise and activity of the city."

As an adjective, use "quiet" to describe a noun, such as: "The quiet town was just too slow-paced for him." As a verb, use "quiet" to express an action, as in, "Be quiet!"

How to Use Quit

Use "quit," which is always a verb, to mean stop, leave, or be free of something. So, you might say, "He quit the team because he felt he was not receiving enough playing time." In this example, the term means that he left, or stopped being a member of the team.

How to Use Quite

"Quite" means completely, to a great extent, or very, such as: "She was quite upset after you refused to help her." In this use, the sentence means that she was very upset about something.

Examples

The terms can have nuanced meanings, so examples can help clarify their meanings.

  • "My mother was quite tired and needed a quiet place to take a nap." In this example, mother was very (quite) tired; "quite" is an adverb here, modifying the word "tired." In the second part of the sentence, "quite" is an adjective describing the word "place." It means "still" or "lacking noise and activity" in this use.
  • "She asked the boys to quit playing games." The woman in this sentence wants the boys to stop or desist from (quit) playing games. Likely, they were horsing around or causing a commotion and the woman wanted them to cease from their activity.
  • "He quit his job and moved to the woods." In the example, the person (he) literally left his job (and probably his community) and went to live in the woods, a "quiet" place, or one that lacked noise and activity.
  • "Now he is quite content." This example uses "quite" to express the notion that he is very, very content and at peace.

How to Remember the Differences

"Quiet" is the only one of these three terms with two syllables: "qui–et." It's main definition is "silent," which also has two syllables: "si–lent." Remember then that "qui–et" and its synonym "si–lent" both mean still, calm, or lacking noise.

Distinguish between "quit" and "quite" with the swap-out test. If you are unsure of which term to use, place each in the same sentence to determine which is correct. So, you could write:

  • I am "quite" sure that I don't like that person.

"Quite" as used here means very or extremely, so that sentence makes sense because you could swap out its synonym, as in:

  • I am "extremely" sure that I don't like that person.

But if you were to use the other term, you would have:

  • I am "quit" sure that I don't like that person.

Swapping out one of the definition for "quit," you would have:

  • I am "leave" sure that I don't like that person.

That makes no sense, so you know that you need the previous term, "quite." Another way to remember the difference between these terms is to use a mnemonic device (a memory aid) based on the fact that "quite" (meaning very) has an "e" at the end; whereas "quit," which means left, has seen the "e" depart. Or, you could remember a short sentence, such as, "The e in quite left when he quit."

Idiom Alerts

The terms are used in a few idioms, and it's important for English speakers and students of the language to learn them.

  • Peace and quiet: The expression means freedom from noise, stress, or interruptions, as in, "What Henry needed was a little peace and quiet."
  • So quiet you could hear a pin drop: This idiom and cliché means extremely quiet, especially in cases where people are very interested in something that's just been said or done. For example: "As we passed the lion's enclosure at the animal park, it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop."
  • Quit while you're ahead: The expression means to stop doing something that's already satisfactory or complete. A sentence using the phrase might read: "You've already made a bundle of money investing in the stock market. You should quit while you're ahead."

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