Common Mistakes in English: A Little vs. a Few, Little vs. Few

The quantifiers “a little,” “little,” “a few,” and “few” are often used interchangeably in English.

However, there is a difference based on whether the object specified is countable or uncountable. The use of the indefinite article “a” also changes the meaning of these important words.

A Little – A Few / Little – Few

A little and little refer to uncountable nouns, and are used with the singular form:

Examples:
There’s little water left in the bottle.
I’ve put a little sugar into your tea.

A few and few refer to countable nouns, and are used with the plural form:

Examples:
There are a few students in that classroom.
He says few applicants have presented themselves.

A little and a few convey a positive meaning.

Examples:
I’ve got a little water left, would you like some?
They’ve got a few positions open.

Little and few convey a negative meaning.

Examples:
He’s got little money left.
I have few friends in Chicago.

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