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What's the Difference Between "Fast" and "Quick"?

What's the Difference Between "Fast" and "Quick"?

Although they are very similar, there are important differences between "fast" and "quick," two words for describing speed. Like other cases of vocabulary that are almost the same, you will need to consider the context and nuance in order to use them correctly.

This article will explain these two words along with some others with similar meanings. We'll also introduce common expressions that include them in order to help you get a clear idea of the variety of ways they can be used.

Basic meanings

A white sports car driving at a fast speed


Fast basically refers to something moving or happening with speed. For example, you can use it to talk about things like cars or runners. 

That car is really fast!
The athlete is known for running fast. 


Quick is an adjective, while quickly is the adverb form. In comparison to fast, which is more general, these two words often give a sense of urgency, as if something sudden is happening or needs to happen with speed.

His quick thinking helped us to find a solution before the deadline.
She moved quickly to catch the falling glass. 

Differences in usage

A group of birds flying during their migration

To understand more about what makes these words different, let's take a closer look at the contexts in which they are used.


Fast is generally used in a larger number of situations and describes the speed of an object, person or action over time or distance.

She can maintain a fast pace for an entire marathon. 
The train travels fast across the countryside, covering great distances in short times. 
This computer processes data fast, even with complex tasks. 
Birds migrate over long distances at fast speeds.


On the other hand, quick and quickly are often used to describe brief actions happening in a short period of time.

For example, the phrase "He grabbed the ball quickly" focuses on an action that happens in only a brief moment.

His reply was quicker than expected. 
She answered the question quickly, without hesitation. 
The cat quickly jumped on the toy.
They quickly cleaned the room before the guests arrived. 

Additionally, they are often used with imperatives for giving commands.

Come over here, quick!

Common idioms and expressions with “fast” and “quick”

A group of women becoming friends

You can find each of the words we've covered so far in several common expressions. Sometimes the meaning is clear from the words alone, but in most cases, the figurative meanings must be memorized.

Playing it fast and loose

Meaning: breaking or ignoring traditions or rules

He often plays it fast and loose with the regulations, which tends to get him into trouble. 

Fast friends

Meaning: close friends

We became fast friends after working on the project together. 

Fast asleep

Meaning: in deep sleep

The children were fast asleep by eight o'clock.

A quick fix

Meaning: a temporary solution that is usually of low quality

Using tape is just a quick fix, not a permanent solution. 

Think quickly

Meaning: processing information with speed, usually to make a decision

In emergency situations, it's important to think quickly and calmly. 

Make a quick buck

Meaning: earn money fast

Many people try to make a quick buck by investing in risky stocks.

Similar vocabulary

An ambulance speeding down the street with its lights on

There are other words similar to fast and quick that can be used in mostly the same ways.


The swift response of the emergency services team saved many lives.


The city has experienced rapid growth over the past decade.


We appreciated the speedy delivery of our order.


The dancer was admired for her nimble footwork.

Note that "nimble" also includes the nuance of lightness, which allows for fast movement.


The differences between fast and quick may be trickier than you imagined. Just remember that quick refers to short moments, while fast usually implies a longer amount of time.

Because of how common these words are in daily conversations, you will have plenty of chances to practice using them. In time, you'll be able to use both naturally and without thinking about it.

Written by Amy, adapted by David