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When it comes to few và little, adding an “a” can change the meaning of the sentences in which they appear. The change is subtle, however, so it can be easily missed.
The Difference Between Few & a Few
We use the word few when we want lớn talk about the quantity of something. Usually, we use it when we want lớn talk about a small quantity:
In the sentence above, we used few to indicate that only one or two members of the family leave town—most of them stay put. However, if we were to showroom “a” to lớn few, we would be saying something else:
Here we’re saying that some members of the family leave their hometown. It’s still not a lot of them, but the emphasis is on the fact on that there are some who bởi vì leave, và not that their number is small. Here’s another example:
In the first sentence, we are saying that, although we have a lot of friends, we haven’t known them for very long—there’s only a small number of them we’ve known since high school. In the second sentence, we are saying that we have many friends and some of them are really old friends—we’ve known them since high school.
The exception lớn these usage rules is a few in the phrase quite a few. That phrase is used to lớn indicate the opposite of a few. Quite a few means a lot:
Difference Between Little & a Little
Little và a little follow the same pattern as few vs. a few. The only difference is that we use few và a few with countable nouns in the plural form, và we use little và a little with uncountable nouns:
In the first example, we are saying that we didn’t have a lot of time before we had to lớn go. In the second one, we’re saying that we had some time, albeit not a lot of it, to prepare.
To make it easier, you could think about it as you would about the proverbial glass of water—you use few and little when you want lớn point out that the glass is half empty (there’s little water in the glass) & you use a few and a little when you want lớn point out that the glass is half full (at least there’s some of it). By the way, you should use little & a little with “water” because it’s an uncountable noun.
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But a few women who have recently given birth suffer from post natal insomnia, when they can’t fall back to lớn sleep after midnight feeds.
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