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What is the Difference between Few and Little

By Mary Smith. Updated: November 27, 2017
What is the Difference between Few and Little

English students sometimes have difficulty understanding the difference between words few and little. Both adjectives have the same meaning, little or few. But they are used in different circumstances that we show below. If your goal is to learn to master English perfectly, knowing the use of each of these terms is essential, so in this oneHOWTO article we explain in detail what the difference between few and little is in English.

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Few and little

FEW

Few is an adjective which always accompanies accounting or plural nouns. It can also be a pronoun or determiner and is used to emphasize how small a certain number of something there is.

  • There were few people at the concert: In this sentence, it is used as a determiner, that determines the amount of people were at the concert.
  • I have few friends: In this case it is also used as a determiner, that indicates the low number of friends you have
  • Few were the people who believed her: In this case, 'few' is used as a pronoun that substitutes a possible noun, indicating the participants that believed her.
  • Smoking is one of my few flaws: Here, few is used as an adjective to describe the noun flaws, which in the case of the person are few.

Few can also be used as a noun when used in plural to describe a minority of people. For example:

  • Greater understanding is reserved to the few.

LITTLE

Little is also an adjective and always accompanies countless or singular nouns. However, it can also be used as a determiner, pronoun and adverb.

  • She has made little progress: In this case, it is used as a determiner, that determines the amount of progress made.
  • I have little money: This case is also a determiner that indicates that the person does not have much money or almost nothing.

When they are loose, they have a negative meaning. They translated as not much, Not many, not many o not many or not as much as expected.

Difference between the two

When using them as determiners, pronouns and adjectives, 'little' and 'few' can sometimes be confused because they are both quantifiers that mean 'some'. So the difference between few and little is that:

  • Few always goes with plural countable nouns. For example: I ate very few oranges during the day.
  • Little always goes with singular and countable nouns or all uncountable nous. For example: I had very little money in my teens.

A few and a little

Furthermore, if we add the article a before few and little, these words acquire a more positive direction than before. Let's take a look a the difference between 'a few' and 'a little':

Then, few and little indicate "not much of anything", but a few and a little indicate that there are enough even though it is not much. 'A few' and 'a little' can also act as a determiner and as a pronoun too.

'A little' can also be used as an adverb, in the sense of 'a bit': He made me laugh a little. Meaning 'he made me smile a bit'. When used before either an adjective or an adverb, it can modify their meaning. It will also mean a bit: I was getting a little better at playing. In this case, we mean 'I was getting a bit' better at playing, but we'd never use 'a few' or few'.

Let's take a look at when we use 'a' with 'few' and 'little' with these examples:

  • I have few friends means you have a small number of friends, BUT I have a few friends means that you don't have many you still have some.
  • Can I ask a few questions? : In this case, as 'a few' is used as a determiner to specify a small number of questions (which are countable), you will only be able to use 'a few' and never 'few'. I asked few questions means, on the other hand, that the number of questions was insufficient and little.
  • I have little money means you don't have a lot of money, BUT I have a little money means you don't have much but still have some left.
  • There is little water means there isn't much water, BUT There is a little water means that there is still some.

'A little' or 'a few' with 'of'

When do we add 'of' after 'a little' or 'a few'? When they are used before an article such as a or the, when they come before a demonstrative such as this or that, after possessives such as my or your and before pronouns like him or them. Let's take a look at these examples:

  • Use a little of the cream to thicken the soup : This means that, in this case, you should only used a small amount of the cream that is, in theory, reserved for this recipe in this step.
  • A few of them were in favor of voting: In this case, out of all the group that conforms 'them', a small amount wanted to vote.
What is the Difference between Few and Little - A few and a little

Other terms that are confusing

Learn English perfectly is no easy task, so it is important to understand the differences between the terms that most commonly lead to confusion, some of them are very common in everyday language. Once you have mastered the difference between few and little, this will help you talk more appropriately reaching an outstanding level of conversation.

oneHOWTO also show you the difference between Who and Whom or the difference between can and could.

Dare to discover them!

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