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Few 'a few' in English Grammar

  1. few a few Indefinite determiner: Adjective (-er, -est) Used with plural countable nouns Not Many

    1. Few people live to be 100.
    2. There are fewer cars parked outside than yesterday.
    3. The police found very few clues to the murderer's identity.
    4. There are very few opportunities for promotion.
    5. The few houses we have seen are in terrible condition.
    6. There were too few people at the meeting.
    7. Accidents on site are few. (Cf There are few accidents on site.)
  2. (idiom) few and far between infrequent, with long period of waiting involved: The buses to our village are few and far between. The sunny intervals we were promised have been few and far between.
  3. few indef pronoun not many people, things, places, etc. (a) (referring back): Of the 150 passengers, few escaped injury. (saying) Many are called but few are chosen. Hundreds of new records are being produced each week but few (of them) get into the charts. (b) (referring forward): Few of us will still be alive in the year 2050. The few who came to the concert enjoyed it. We saw few of the sights as we were only there for two hours.
  4. The few n [pl v] the minority: a voice for the few.

Some or any

We use some and somebody in positive sentences and we use any or anybody,anywhere,anything etc., in negative sentences or questions.
  1. There is some cheese in the cupboard. (uncount noun)
  2. There are some eggs too (countable noun)
  3. There isn't any cheese in the cupboard.
  4. There aren't any eggs either. (Use 'either' to add more to a negative)
  5. Hardly anybody ate the bread.
We often use any after if: or after other words with the same idea as if. You can choose to use the any form.
  1. please tell me if there is anything that you don't understand.
  2. Anyone interested should let me know immediately. (=If there is anyone/anybody)

Much,many,little,few,a lot,plenty

Much and little are used with uncountable nouns.
Many and few are used with countable nouns.
We use much/many in negative sentences although a lot (of) is also possible.
In positive sentences a lot of is more usual. Much is quite unusual (especially in spoken English) but is possible, eg: "Much ado about nothing" - Shakespeare. True that it does have an old fashioned feeling to it but it is still heard sometimes.
Much with parts of or one countable noun.
  1. That's some picture, don't you think?.
    Yes, it's great, but I don't think much of that one over there.
    No, it's not much of a picture, is it?
  2. I can't see much of that elephant hiding in those trees.

Little / few

Without 'a' these are negative ideas. These words without 'a' can be preceded by very. Eg: That man has very little money. He is a poor man.
  1. Few people turned up to watch the match. (=Not as many as usual)
  2. He was almost perfect, he made few mistakes.
  3. The College web site is little use to me. (Almost useless)
  4. Little did he suspect that I had been watching him all the time.

A Little / a few

These are positive ideas. A little=some, a small amount.
A Few = some, a small number.

Only a little, only a few

Note: That 'only a little' and 'only a few' have a negative meaning.

  1. We've only got a little milk left.
  2. In my village there are only a few houses.

All, all of, most, most of, no, none of etc.,

You can use the words:
all some any most much/many little/few
with nouns: most people, no books, etc.,

You can't say:
some of people, most of cars. Some people can speak English (Not. Some of people can speak English)
We can say Some of the people from this city can speak English. Check the definite article. Eg: All flowers are beautiful - Flowers generally
All of the flowers in this garden.

A few and few, a little and little

These express the quantity of something countable or uncountable.

A few and a little

A few is used for countable nouns, a little is used for uncountable nouns


  • "I've got a few friends" (not many, but enough)
  • "I've got a little money" (not much, but enough)
  • Few people visited him in hospital (he had almost no visitors)
  • He had little money (almost no money)

Order of quantity

The following quantifiers are in order of the greatest quantity.
Note: The expression 'only few' can be confusing, as 'only a few' is clearer and 'few' means not as many as we would expect. Use only a few to say not a lot

  1. extremely
  2. very
  3. quite
  4. not very
  5. a few / a little (Like some)
  6. few / little (Not as much/many as we would expect)

Few 'a few' in English Grammar

Some useful hints on article usage in English

A Couple of words about few/a few from:

postdeterminers are determiners that come after central determiners"; like
the, an, some any, and also this, these, that those, etc.
They (postdeterminers fall into two classes:

  • (a) ordinal, such as first, fourth, last, other;
  • (b) quantifiers , such as seven, ninety, many, few, plenty, a lot of:
  • the first two poems
  • my last two possessions
  • her other many accomplishments

Among the (b) items there are two important distinctions involving few and little. First, few occurs only with plural count nouns, little only with noncount nouns. Second, when preceded by a, each has a positive meaning; without a, each has a negative meaning. Thus:

  1. I play a few games (ie 'several').
  2. I play few games (ie 'hardly any').
  3. She ate a little bread (ie 'some').
  4. She ate little bread (ie 'hardly any),

Note: Comparative forms can be preceded by items of absolute meaning:

There were a few more of our supporters than I had expected.";
She played much less of Beethoven's music than we had hoped.

ShowA few ; Quantifiers
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