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How to Use Quantifiers - a few, a little for English

Quantifiers- ‘a few’, ‘a little’

The English Language


The Explanation

A Quantifier in the English Language is a word or phrase which is used before a noun to indicate the amount or quantity. Quantifiers can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns in a sentence. Some of the most common quantifiers in the English Language are ‘some', 'many', 'a lot of', ‘a little’ and 'a few' etc.

e.g.:

  • He's got only a few coins

  • There are some sweets on the dining table

In this section, we are going to discuss the quantifiers ‘a few’ and ‘a little’ in more detail.



Meaning of Quantifiers ‘a little’ and ‘a few’

‘A little’ and ‘a few’ are the quantifiers meaning ‘some’. In general, ‘little’ and ‘few’ are used to mean less than expected or wished for

  • ‘A little’ is used with singular uncountable nouns, whereas ‘a few’ is used with plural countable nouns

e.g.:

  • Melissa did not talk, but she drank water and ate a little bread.

  • We stayed a few days in London and visited the museums.


  • The quantifiers that are commonly used with the countable nouns are-Many, a number (of), a few/few/very few, a large number of, a great number of, a majority of etc

  • The quantifiers that are commonly used with the uncountable nouns are-Much, a little/little/very little, a bit (of), a great deal of, a large amount of, a large quantity of etc

  • The quantifiers that can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns are-All, enough, more/most, no/none, any, some, not any etc

How to use the quantifiers ‘a few’ and ‘a little’

A little, a few, (very) little, and (very) few are the commonly used quantifiers and are commonly used as below-

1. The expressions a little and a few mean some or enough

e.g.:

  • I've got a little clarity on the subject

  • I've got a few great colleagues

2. The expressions (very) little and (very) few mean hardly any or not enough

e.g.:

  • I’ve got (very) little money. I need to borrow from friends

Rules for using the quantifiers ‘a few’ and ‘a little’

1. Quantifiers a little, a few, (very) little, and (very) few are generally used in affirmative statements, and not in negatives or interrogative sentences.

e.g.:

  • I’ve got a few dollars to spend (correct)

  • I’ve not got a few dollars to spend (incorrect)

2. Quantifiers ‘a few’ and ‘a little’ are largely used for countable and uncountable nouns as below-

-‘A little’ is used with uncountable nouns (money, water etc)

  • e.g.: They’ve got a little money left from the fund

-‘A few’ is used with countable nouns (friends, books etc)

  • e.g.: I’ve got a few close friends to count on








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