Quiet, Quit, and Quite

Commonly Confused Words

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The boy put his forefinger to his lips and whispered, "Be quiet.". (VisitBritain/Ian Shaw/Getty Images)

The words quiet, quit, and quite look and sound somewhat alike, but their meanings are quite different.

Definitions

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"). 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").

Examples

  • My mother was quite tired and needed a quiet place to take a nap. 
     
  • She asked the boys to quit playing games.
     
  • "[B]ecause Bailey yelled so loud and disturbed what was left of the service, the minister's wife came out and asked Uncle Willie to quiet us down."
    (Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Random House, 1969)
     
  • "Two of the men from Washington snored weakly and one of the Air Force sergeants snored very loudly as if he enjoyed snoring and was going to do as much of as he wanted. Then the snoring became a part of the plane sounds, and everything was quiet."
    (Martha Gellhorn, "Miami—New York." The Atlantic Monthly, 1948)
     
  • "The boy wanted to quit because the work was so hard and the hours were so long and the pay was so small."
    (Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five. Delacorte, 1969)
     
  • "Our family banking was quite informal: a little metal Recipes box, with floral decorations and a red lid, sat on top of the icebox, and those with expenses took from it the bills and coins they required."
    (John Updike, Self-Consciousness. Alfred A. Knopf, 1989)
     

Idiom Alerts

  • Peace and Quiet
    The expression peace and quiet means freedom from noise, stress, or interruptions.
    "Lord, save me, thought Bernice. She sat with her head against the window of the Toyota, watching Newton Avenue go by. After the lunacy back at the house, all she wanted was a little peace and quiet."
    (David Rabe, Dinosaurs on the Roof. Simon & Schuster, 2008)
     
  • So Quiet You Could Hear a Pin Drop
    The idiom and cliché so quiet you could hear a pin drop means extremely quiet, especially in cases where people are very interested in something that's just been said or done. 
    "I think the fans are in a state of shock. A moment or two ago they were raucous and confident, but now they can't believe their eyes. I wouldn't say you could hear a pin drop in this gigantic stadium, but they're sure a lot quieter than they were."
    (William X. Kienzle, Kill and Tell. Andrews McMeel, 1984)
     
  • Quit While You're Ahead
    The expression quit while one is ahead means to stop doing something that's already satisfactory or complete.
    "No one will dispute that it makes sense to quit while you're ahead. But there are times in life when you're behind, and you've got to cut your losses and walk away."
    (Howard Kaminsky and Alexandra Penney, Magic Words: 101 Ways to Talk Your Way Through Life's Challenges. Broadway, 2002)


Practice

(a) What Henry needed was a little peace and _____.

(b) He _____ his job and moved to the woods.

(c) Now he is _____ content.

(d) "The boy slipped out the door, quick and _____ as a cat."
(Robert Penn Warren, "Christmas Gift." The Virginia Quarterly Review, 1938)
 

Answers to Practice Exercises

(a) What Henry needed was a little peace and quiet.

(b) He quit his job and moved to the woods.

(c) Now he is quite content.

(d) "The boy slipped out the door, quick and quiet as a cat."
(Robert Penn Warren, "Christmas Gift." The Virginia Quarterly Review, 1938)