The word “pretty” has different meanings and common uses.

“Pretty” is sometimes confused with “very” – but means quite the opposite!

Please read on for more examples of how to add “pretty” to your vocabulary.

You probably use PRETTY (pronounced “PRIH-di”) as an adjective to describe something or someone pleasing to look at; to be elegant or lovely.

How to Use Pretty Good in a Sentence

“Pretty” + nouns (i.e., woman, home, view, etc.) is generally a compliment, a good thing.

But what happens when you use “pretty” + adjective (good) or “pretty” + adverb (well) (much)?

a good burger

A GOOD Hamburger

A VERY GOOD Hamburger

A PRETTY GOOD hamburger

A “pretty good” hamburger is LESS good than a “very good” hamburger.

Keep in Mind

VERY (adverb) = truly, extremely.  (80%-95%, depending on context)

PRETTY (adverb) = somewhat, moderately (60%-75%, depending on context)

Do not use “pretty” + good, well, or much these ways:

NO:  My colleague, Steven, can help you; he is a pretty good lawyer in Manhattan. (not good)

NO:  Don’t be nervous – I know your speech is going to go pretty well! (so-so)

NO:  Thanks! I appreciate your advice pretty much. (not much)

To correct each sentence, say “very” instead of “pretty.”

ON the other hand …

There are times when “pretty” helps soften the meaning, so it sounds less aggressive or rude. In the sign below, “pretty sure” means “moderately sure” or “somewhat sure.”

How to Use …   PRETTY SURE    PRETTY ACCURATE    PRETTY MUCH

At the grocery store:                             

Jim: “Excuse me, but I’m pretty sure I gave you $10.” (“pretty sure” means there is some doubt)

Cashier: “No, see here? (showing the bill) You gave me $5.”

Jim: Oh, you’re right! My apologies!

(Saying “pretty sure” creates some room for Jim to be wrong, so, he sounds like less of a jerk than if he had been “very sure.”)

At the office:

Liz: These numbers look wrong – did you double-check them?!

Massoumeh: Actually, if you look at them closely, you’ll find that they are pretty accurate.

(Saying “pretty accurate” basically means “accurate” but it sounds less arrogant.)

 At the Park:

Martina: I’m so sorry I’m late for your birthday party! Is there any cake left?

Sean: Sorry! It’s pretty much all gone.

(Saying “pretty much” softens the effect of “all gone.”)

Please note: The tone of voice can sometimes make “pretty” + adjective sound positive, like when something is better than expected:

“Hmm! This pizza is pretty good!(The pizza is good – better than expected!)

“I wasn’t looking forward to the call, but it actually went pretty well.”

 

Pronunciation Practice Everyday words often mispronounced. 

  • Pretty = PRIh-di (rhymes with “city”)
  • Recipe = RESS-a-pi
  • Receipt = ruh-SEET (no “p” sound)
  • Tired = TAI-yrd
  • Analyze = AN-n’l-aize
  • Fool = foohl  (rhymes with “cool”) OR FUU-w’l
  • Food = fuud  (rhymes with “rude”)
  • Good = guhd (it’s the same “uh” as in “look”)
  • Good food = guhd fuud
  • October = ahk-TOH-b’r  (“toh” rhymes with “no”)
  • Not = NAHT  (the “o” in “not” is like the “a” in “father”)