Little/Few

What’s the difference between little and few?

Little and few can cause problems for learners of English—even some native speakers don’t know the difference! Both words mean a small amount of something, but we use little with uncountable nouns and few with plural countable nouns. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about these two tricky quantifiers, then put your knowledge to the test in the free exercises.

I’ve got little time for chit-chat as I’m running late for the airport.

The radio says there is more than a little traffic on the motorway, so I’ve got to hurry up.

A few of us are going to Spain for a holiday.

We all have less time and fewer holidays than we used to.

That’s why it’s so important that we spend a few days together each year.

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(A) Little or (A) Few

(A) little and (a) few are quantifiers. Use (a) little with uncountable nouns and (a) few with countable plural nouns.

  • little and few express a very small amount of something, they are equivalent to almost none.
Example:
I’ve got little time to chit-chat.
Few people take time to relax.
  • a little and a few mean some, they express a larger amount than few and little alone.
Example:
There is more than a little traffic on the motorway.
We spend a few days together each year.
Example:
A few of us are going to Spain for a holiday.
  • less and fewer are the comparative forms of little and few, to learn more go to our page on less vs. fewer.
Example:
We all have less time and fewer holidays than we used to.

Informal speech

In informal language, not much/many are more common than little or few.

Example:
I don’t have much time for chit-chat.

Only a little/few or very little/few also appear more frequently than just little and few.

Example:
Only a few friends are coming to Spain.