"A little" and "a few" mean not much/many but some.
"Little" and "few" mean almost none, close to zero.
When do we use "little" and "few"?
Which of the two words to use depends on the noun:
- if the noun is uncountable, we use (a) little
- if the noun is countable plural, we use (a) few
We also use "(a) little" as an adverb.
|With uncountable nouns |
and as an adverb
|With countable plural nouns|
☺️not much but still some
a little honey
to be a little tired
to speak French a little
☺️not many but still some
a few pencils
a few exercises
☹ almost none
to know little about something
☹ almost zero
Examples of "a little"
We've got a little cheese and ham left. Let's make sandwiches. (= not much but enough for the sandwiches)
I'd like a little cream in my coffee. (= some cream, a small portion of cream)
— Do you know Sandra?
— Yes, a little. (= not too well but still)
I've got an exam tomorrow, so I'm a little nervous. (= not very nervous but I feel some nervousness)
— Are you tired?
— Yes, a little. I want to go to bed. (not completely tired but a bit)
Examples of "little"
Hurry up! We've got little time. (= almost no time)
There's little hope that we'll find your bicycle. (= almost no hope)
I know little about John's job. (= almost nothing)
Examples of "a few"
I know a few people in that company. (= not many people but some)
I have to make a few phone calls and send a few emails. (= not many calls and emails but some)
Examples of "few"
Ronald is lonely. He's got few friends. (= almost no friends)
They have cut down almost all trees. There are few trees left now. (= almost no trees)
Do not confuse "a little" as a quantifier (for example, a little sugar) with a+little+noun as an adjective (like a little girl).