Little / Few

Indicate an insufficient quantity

Glass half empty
 

 

Little/Few vs. A Little/A few

LITTLE / FEW

Use little or few when the amount is small and unsatisfactory.. "an insufficient amount".

DISSATISFIED

sad

I have little water.    (noncount noun)

Little water is left in my glass.  (I want more.)

I have few friends.  (count noun)

Few people ever call me.  (Poor me.)

A LITTLE / A FEW

Use a little or a few when the amount is small but still satisfactory. "a sufficient amount"

SATISFIED

happy

I have a little water (noncount noun)

A little water is all I need.

I have a few friends. (count noun)

A few friends are coming over!

 

insufficient (adj) – not enough; less than desired

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little / Few

An insufficient amount

Nearly empty refrigerator
 

 

Little vs. Few

LITTLE

Use little with a noncount noun in a positive sentence to indicate a small insufficient quantity.

A POSITIVE SENTENCE

Little food is in the refrigerator.    (singular verb)

There is little food in the refrigerator.

A NEGATIVE SENTENCE / A QUESTION

* Little food isn't in the refrigerator.  (incorrect – a double negative)

*Is there little food in the refrigerator. (Incorrect – use a little or any)  

FEW

Use few with a plural count noun in a positive sentence to indicate a small insufficient number.

A POSITIVE SENTENCE

Few snacks are in the refrigerator.    (plural verb)

There are few snacks in the refrigerator.

A NEGATIVE SENTENCE / A QUESTION

*Few snacks aren't in the refrigerator.  (incorrect – a double negative)

*Are there few snacks in the refrigerator. (Incorrect – use a few or some)

 

*Yellow highlighted words are examples of incorrect usage.

 

 

 

 

 

A Little / A Few

A sufficient  amount

 

 

A little vs. a few

A LITTLE

Use a little with a noncount noun – in a question, a positive, or a negative sentence – to indicate a small, sufficient quantity.

A POSITIVE SENTENCE

a little milkA little milk is in my glass.    (singular verb)

There is a little milk in my glass.

A NEGATIVE SENTENCE / A QUESTION

a little is missingA little milk isn't in my glass. (Somebody drank some.) 

Is a little milk missing? 

A FEW

Use a few with a plural count noun – in a question, a positive, or a negative sentence – to indicate a small, sufficient quantity.

A POSITIVE SENTENCE

a few cookies on my plateA few cookies are on my plate.    (plural verb)

There are a few cookies on my plate.

 

A NEGATIVE SENTENCE / A QUESTION

a few cookies missingA few cookies are not on my plate.  (Somebody ate them.)

Are a few cookies missing? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little / Few

Sufficient vs. Insufficient

 

 

 

A Few vs. Few

FEW – INSUFFICIENT

Use few to mean "not many, not enough" (insufficient).

Few people are able to give to food programs this year.  (not many)

The Bank received few donations.  

Fortunately, few families will without a holiday meal.   

 

 

A FEW – SUFFICIENT

Use a few to mean "not many but enough" (sufficient).

helpersA few people will help collect food for the Food Bank. (enough)

The Food Bank received a few very large checks.  

Unfortunately, a few families will go without a holiday meal.  

 

a food bank – a program in a community that collects food from grocery stores, restaurants and neighbors and gives it to people who need food. 

 

 

 

Little vs. A Little

LITTLE– INSUFFICIENT

Use little to mean "not much, not enough".  The speaker is unhappy about it.

Little help is being received this year. (not much)

The usual donors are able to give little food.  

People will have to get by with little assistance

 

A LITTLE – SUFFICIENT

Use a little to mean "not much but enough".   The speaker is OK with it.

foodA little help will come from corporate donations.  

Restaurants and grocery stores will give a little food.  

People will have to get by with a little assistance.   (enough)

 

get by (expression) – have less; have barely enough; survive

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Air Travel

airline seats
 

 

Decide whether the sentence needs the quantifier little / a little or few / a few.

You will need to know if the noun is count or noncount. Noncount/Count

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

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Practice 2

My Glass is Half Full

an optimist

 

 

What are the pluses (+) in your life?

Use "a few" or "a little" to express a sufficient amount.

  1. Select the  option that best completes the sentence.
  2. Read the feedback.

"My glass is half full" is an expression that describes a person who sees the positive side of life and is an optimist.

 

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Practice 3

Restocking the refrigerator

the refrigerator
 

 

What do we need from the supermarket? 

Use "few" or "little" to express an insufficient amount.

  1. Select the option that best completes the sentence.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

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Related page: Food Quantifiers