A Few vs. Few

Using a few instead of few in a sentence changes a sentence's meaning. Whereas "a few" implies a small number of some that is greater than two, "few" implies only a small number. Other words, like "very" or "quite," may also come before "a few" or "few" and further change sentence meaning. Examples can be found below.

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A Few

Few

Meaning "A few" means "some" or "a handful". "Few" means "virtually none" or "almost zero".
Connotation "A few" connotes "not an overwhelmingly large number, but not an insignificantly small number either." "Few" without the preceding "a" connotes "an insignificantly small number"

Contents: A Few vs Few

edit Examples of "Few" and "A Few" in a Sentence

edit Effects of Modifiers

Other words can further modify the meaning of "a few" and "few." For example, "quite a few" changes the meaning of "a few" from some to many: "Quite a few people attended the party." In other words, many people attended the party.

Similarly, "very few" emphasizes just how few things or people are being discussed: "She used very few buttons on her art project." In other words, she didn't use many buttons at all.

edit Etymology

The word "few," which can be used as a noun, pronoun, and adjective, comes from Old English. It specifically means seldom or little and is able to function as both a describing word when it is an adjective and a word that can be described when it is a noun.

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Comments: A Few vs Few

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Anonymous comments (7)

June 3, 2014, 9:55am

I am now clear

— 82.✗.✗.141
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May 25, 2014, 6:51pm

Very helpful,thanks.

— 86.✗.✗.165
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December 16, 2012, 4:00pm

very useful for all

— 122.✗.✗.26
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November 17, 2011, 7:09am

I'm so glad I have this cleared out, I used to believe the opposite thing completely before reading this article and the comments herein. Thank you so much.

— 89.✗.✗.233
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August 16, 2010, 3:17pm

83.31.52.198:

Yes, that's right. "I have few objections" means I have virtually no objections. And "I have a few objections" translates to "Hold on..not so fast. I have some objections here that need to be addressed." Few and A Few are actually opposites of each other.

— 67.✗.✗.106
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August 16, 2010, 5:46am

interesting interpretation: ???"I have few objections to the proposal" actually means "I have no objections". ???

— 83.✗.✗.198
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October 2, 2007, 7:58am

Actually, when someone uses the word 'few' without a preceding 'a', they actually mean 'no'. It's a way of putting forward one's opinion. Using the same example, "I have few objections to the proposal" actually means "I have no objections". The same goes for the difference between 'little' and 'a little'. When used with a preceding 'a', little refers to a small number/quantity. For example, "There's a little chance of we winning the case" means we can win the case, though chances are not very high. But when a doctor says "There's little hope of patient's survival", he/she means that there's no hope of patient's survival.....and just puts it across in a different way.

— 12.✗.✗.7
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