Britlish

A Few - Few | A Little - Little

Vocabulary | Confusables

Vocabulary

Did you know that there are over 600,000 words in English? That's a lot of words, and far more than any human being could ever manage to learn. Even Shakespeare only used around 55,000 different words in all of his works. Mind you, he did actually invent quite a few of them. To get a good mastery of English, you do need to expand your vocabulary as much as possible. The more words you know, the better your English will be. The Activities here will help you to quickly develop your vocabulary.

Confusables

Certain words in English are so alike that they confuse even native English speakers. Words like their and there for instance are often confused. The Activities here look in detail at some of the most common confusable words and give you plenty of explanation into how to use them correctly as well as plenty of exercises to help you avoid making mistakes in the future. 

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The two confusable quantifiers, few and little, are not as difficult to master as you might think. This microlearning lesson gives you plenty of examples of the use of few, a few, little, and a little, and plenty of practice to help you get them right. You can also watch a video explaining how whether a noun is countable or uncountable determines which of the words we use.

There is a Challenge based on this lesson.

A Few and a little are quantifiers which mean not nothing or someFew and little when used without the article have negative meanings. They are used with countable and uncountable nouns, little with singular, uncountable nouns and few with plural countable nouns.

A little, a few with a noun

We use a little with singular uncountable nouns. We use a few with plural countable nouns.

I have a little flour left so I will make pancakes.

I have a few pancakes left, so you can eat them.

Little, few with a noun

We use little with uncountable nouns. We use few with plural countable nouns. They are used in formal contexts.

There is little oil left for humanity to use.

There are few occasions when you will see me dressed in fine clothes.

(A) little, (a) few without a noun

We can use (a) little and (a) few as pronouns. We can use them in place of a noun when the context makes the noun obvious.

I'll tell you a little about my life in Spain.

I can tell you little about my life in Spain.

Don't eat all the sweets. Just take a few.

Little and few are uncommon without a noun. We use them in formal contexts.

Little is known of his early life.

Few would agree that he is the best manager.

(A) little of, (a) few of

We use of with (a) little and (a) few when they come before articles (a/an, the), demonstratives (this, that), possessives (my, your) or pronouns (him, them).

Put a little of the milk in the bowl and then a few handfuls of flour.

A few jars of jam were found after she died.

A little as adverb

We use a little as an adverb of degree which is more formal than a bit.

He sighed a little and then fell asleep.

The dog was panting a little after the chase.

A little with adjectives, determiners, adverbs

We use a little before adjectives and adverbs to modify them and sound more formal than a bit.

I think she's getting a little better since she came home from hospital.

You need a little more gas.

Little as adjective

We use little as an adjective to mean ‘small’.

She was only a little girl.

In Ireland they talk about "the little people" as if they really existed.

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