Whooosh! Zooom! Wheee! Today, we have a need for speed, so we’re looking at the words “quick” and “fast.” Both terms are related to rapidity, but there is a subtle difference between them that many people overlook. So, join us for a speedy look at how to use these words correctly!
Quick (Speedily or in a Short Time)
One use of the adjective “quick” is to refer to something that happens at speed:
John was always quick to respond.
The emphasis here is brevity of action. We also see this in another use of this term, which is to show that something happens in a short amount of time:
I’ll give your essay a quick look before you hand it in.
These uses are similar, but the second doesn’t necessarily require speed. You could have a “quick nap,” for example, which would be short but static (unless you fall asleep on a skateboard at the top of a hill).
The adverbial form of this word is “quickly.” “Quick” and “quickly” are sometimes used interchangeably, but you should always use “quick” for nouns and “quickly” for verbs in formal writing.
Fast (At High Speed)
“Fast” is another adjective that refers to something happening at speed:
John was always fast to respond.
However, it can also be used to describe something that is capable of moving quickly. Or it can indicate that something happens at a high pace:
I’ve always loved fast cars.
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The fast pace of change took some by surprise.
In these cases, it is the sustained speed/rate of something that matters, not the time it takes to occur. We say that a car is “fast,” for example, because this reflects its potential for sustained speed, whereas “quick” would imply a brief action.
An important exception to this is “fast food,” which is so called because it is made quickly. It does not usually move fast unless you throw it across the room, which is widely considered impolite.
In addition, we can use “fast” as an adverb when describing an action:
You always drive too fast.
“Fast” has some other meanings, too, such as “hard to move” or to abstain from food for a period of time. However, these are much harder to confuse with the word “quick”!
Quick or Fast?
These words are often interchangeable when referring to something that happens at speed. But this is not always the case. The key to avoiding errors is therefore considering whether time is relevant.
If you’re describing something that happens in a short time, it will be typically be “quick.” But if it is something that is capable of moving fast or that occurs at a high rate, the correct word will be “fast.”
Quick = Happening at speed or in a short time
Fast = Happening at a high speed or rate, or capable of moving at speed