A Little / A Few

The expressions a little and a few mean some.

  • If a noun is in singular, we use a little
    Example:
    a little money
  • If a noun is in plural, we use a few
    Example:
    a few friends

Countable / Uncountable Nouns

In connection with a little / a few people often speak of countable nouns and uncountable nouns.

Countable nouns have a singular and a plural form. In plural, these nouns can be used with a number (that's why they are called 'countable nouns'). Countable nouns take a few.

Example:
4 friends – a few friends

Uncountable nouns can only be used in singular. These nouns cannot be used with a number (that's why they are called 'uncountable nouns'). Uncountable nouns take a little.

Example:
3 moneya little money

Note: Of course you can count money – but then you would name the currency and say that you have got 3 euro (but not „3 money“).

A Little / A few or Little / Few

It's a difference if you use a little / a few or little / few. Without the article, the words have a limiting or negative meaning.

  • a little = some
    little = hardly any
    Example:
    I need a little money. - I need some money.
    I need little money. - I need hardly any money.
  • a few = some
    few = hardly any
    Example:
    A few friends visited me. - Some friends visited me.
    Few friends visited me. - Hardly any friends visited me.

Without the article, little / few sound rather formal. That's why we don't use them very often in everyday English. A negative sentence with much / many is more common here.

Example:
I need little money. = I do not need much money.
Few friends visited me. = Not many friends visited me.

Exercises on a little / a few

a little / a few

little / few