Common Mistakes in English: A Little - a Few, Little - Few

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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. Study the rules for usage with this guide to these commonly used expressions.

A Little - A Few / Little - Few

A little and little refer to non-count nouns, and is used with the singular form:


There's little wine left in the bottle.
I've put a little sugar into your coffee.

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


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

A little and a few convey a positive meaning.


I've got a little wine left, would you like some?
They've got a few positions open.

Little and few convey a negative meaning.


He's got little money left.
I have few friends in Chicago.