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Grammar

1. Quantifiers - Few / Little / A Few / A Little

These quantifiers are used to show a small quantity of something, for example "I have a few books" means I have a small quantity of books.

A Few

A few is used with countable nouns to show a small quantity. It is used in affirmative statements, but not negatives. We generally use any or questions. For example:
- I have a few books.
- I don't have a few books
This is incorrect.
- I don't have any books
This is correct.
- Do you have a few books?
Sometimes this is possibe, but generally speaking we use any for questions, for example "Do you have any books?"

Few

There is an important difference between a few and few. Few without a is used to mean we don't have enough of something. For example:
- She has few apples in the refridgerator. (She doesn't have enough apples).
- She has a few apples in the refridgerator. (She has a small quantity of apples)

Put another way, "a few" means "a small quantity", but "few" means "not a big quantity" For example:
- A few friends came to my party. This is a positive idea, I'm happy a few people came./
- Few friends came to my party. This is a negative idea, I'm not happy because not many people came.
Notice how "a few" focuses on how many people did come, but "few" focuses on how many didn't come.

In sum, A few means a small quantity - few means not a big quantity

A Little

A little is used with uncountable nouns to show a small quantity. Again, it is generally used in affirmative statements, not negatives or questions. For example:
- I have a little orange juice.
Negatives and Questions use "any" as usual.
- I don't have a little orange juice.
This is incorrect.
- I don't have any orange juice.
This is correct
- Do you have a little orange juice?
Again, we generally use any for questions, for example "Do you have any orange juice?"

Little

As with few, there is also the same difference between a little and little. Little without a is used to mean we don't have enough of something. For example:
- She has little for breakfast. (She doesn't eat enough for breakfast).
- She has a little for breakfast. (She has a small quantity of food for breakfast).

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Now try some exercises with few, a few, little, and a little!

 

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