Few, little

English grammar (See all)

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Few, little

Few and little both express 'a small quantity':

•  Little and a little precede uncountable nouns:
Philip has little time for his family. Philip does not have much time to spend with his family.
Will you have a little milk with your tea? Will you have some milk with your tea?
I get by with a little help from my friends. I cope with some help from my friends.
You insulted him a little bit! You insulted him slightly!

•  Few and a few precede countable nouns:
Few people know the true story of Horatio's youth. Not many people know the true story of Horatio's youth.
The Pope called me a few days ago. The Pope called me several days ago.
There are very few elephants left in the area. There are not many elephants left in the area at all.
The few of you who did not finish their paper, please go see the principal. Some of you did not finish their paper. Those people should go to see the principal.

Note: little and few are antonyms of much and many respectively.


Note the difference between little/few and a little/a few:
•  Without the article, these words stress the idea of a very small quantity, often expressing a negative idea ('not much', 'hardly any');
•  With the article a, these words simply express the idea of a small quantity or a small number:
I have little money. I don't have much money.
I have a little money. I have some money.
Bruno has few contacts in the White House. Bruno does not have many contacts in the White House.
Bruno has a few contacts in the White House. Bruno has some contacts in the White House.
Polly has little patience for womanizers like Philip Cheeter. Polly does not have much patience for womanizers like Philip Cheeter.


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