A Little vs. A Few – Difference, Examples

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

A Few/A Little. Both a little and a few are quantifiers and pronouns that refer to some. Their negative definition is not as much as expected or desired.

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Rules for “A Little”

Use a little as a quantifier when referring to singular uncountable nouns. This quantifier implies that something exists or occurs at a small degree or amount. Here are some sentence examples.

  • I had a little bread for breakfast today.
  • Phillip has little money left in his bank account.
  • Kate has a little extra time this morning to tour you around the city.
  • Myra enjoys her coffee with a little sugar and cream.

As a pronoun, a little can be a replacement for a noun that may be explicitly or implicitly mentioned in the sentence. Here are some examples.

  • Only a little is known about his life.
  • I have very little, but I’m willing to share.

Rules for “A Few”

Few is a quantifier used with plural countable nouns. The quantifier indicates that there are only some objects or people. Consider these sentence examples.

  • I have a few companions in Scotland.
  • Lea has a few toys left from her childhood.
  • We have a few tasks left on the list.
  • There were a few people standing outside their houses.
  • Can the man buy a few oranges for us?

As a pronoun, a few can be a replacement for a noun that may be explicitly or implicitly mentioned in the sentence. Here are some examples.

  • I didn’t take all the flowers. Only a few.
  • Many have tried reaching out to Timothy. However, only a few have succeeded.

When Not to Use “A” with Few and Little

There are some occurrences when you don’t need the a in front of few or little such as when they’re uncountable nouns used in a negative way or when talking about size. Here are some examples.

  • I have few people I trust (meaning, they have very little people they trust)
  • The puppy is so little. (meaning, the puppy is small in size)

A Little and A Few: A Recap

Learning the grammar rules of a little and a few can be confusing. But I hope this guide taught you the differences in their use. Remember that:

  • A little is a quantifier or pronoun used for uncountable nouns.
  • A few is a quantifier used for plural and countable nouns.

Take the test below to see if you’ve mastered the two English quantifiers.