A few and few are used with plural count-nouns. A little and little are used with non-count nouns.
It is useful to remember which nouns are ‘count’ (countable) and ‘non-count’ (uncountable) first:
Countable nouns or ‘count’ nouns are those nouns that can be counted:
An apple, two apples etc.
Uncountable nouns or ‘non-count’ nouns are those nouns that cannot be counted: water, bread etc. Uncountable nouns take a singular verb and are not used with a/an.
Uncountable nouns can be divided into different groups:
Mass nouns: fruit juice, butter, sugar, rice, sand, etc.
Study subjects: physics, chemistry, mathematics (maths), history etc.
Sports: football, rugby, basketball etc.
Languages: English, Italian, Dutch, Arabic etc.
Diseases: influenza, malaria, asthma etc.
Natural phenomena: rain, snow, mist etc.
Collective nouns: money, baggage, furniture, etc.
other nouns: information, accommodation, anger, luck, love, etc.
A few means not many but enough.
We had a few hours left before we had to be at the airport so we went for a last swim.
A few is used with too to mean just slightly more than enough.
However ‘only a few’ can mean not enough.
There were only a few people interested in the excursion so it was cancelled.
Few means hardly any and usually has a negative meaning. It is also used for emphasis with very.
Very few people enjoyed the film despite the stars who act in it.
A little means not much but enough.
There’s a little sugar left so do you still want a cup of coffee?
A little is used with too to mean slightly more than enough.
Little means hardly any almost none and usually has a negative meaning. It is also used for emphasis with very.
There’s very little time before the show starts. I don’t think we have time for a coffee.
Lesson by EC Malta teacher Tristan, Learn English in Malta
Choose the right word/phrase for the following: