# Few vs. A few

Hello ,can you make a lear distinction between ‘‘few’’ and ‘‘a few’’ as well as ‘‘little’’ and ‘‘a little’’.

Hi Duc

No, you can’t make a clear distinction in terms of number/amount. In fact, the number or amount could be exactly the same. The difference is mainly the way the quantity is viewed or sensed in the context. Is the quantity seen positively or negatively? In the context, is the quantity more similar to ‘many’ or to ‘not many’? The difference is subjective rather than objective.

Perhaps you can look at the difference this way:
a few/a little = [color=green][size=125]+[/size] (perceived as pointing in the direction of ‘a lot’)
few/little = [color=red][size=125]-[/size] (the sense is ‘not a lot’)

Here is an example:
Let’s say Jane and Mary each have three friends in Boston. They might see the number of friends differently even though each has exactly the same number of friends – the difference in perception lies in the context.

Scenario 1 (positive):
Jane moved to a new city (Boston) 5 days ago. When she arrived, she didn’t have any friends there. She met and became friendly with three people in Boston right away. She sees this positively and might say this with a big smile on her face:
I’ve already got a few friends here!

Scenario 2 (negative):
Mary moved to a new city (Boston) 5 years ago. When she arrived, she didn’t have any friends there. She has had trouble making friends, and she has only become friendly with three people in five years’ time. She is disappointed because she had expected to make friends with lots of people. Mary might sadly say this:
I’ve got few friends here. I wish I had more.

Does that help?
.