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Small quantities: little - a little - few - a few
Students usually understand and use the expression of a big quantity quite easily: MUCH + uncountable noun in the singular // MANY + countable noun in the plural. Yet, a problem rises when it comes to expressing little quantities... The rules seem to be well-known, but aren't applied correctly, or not applied at all... We're going to see them again here today...
I) LITTLE is placed before an uncountable noun in the singular: = LITTLE: is a little/ too little, insufficient quantity.
- The beggar had little money and couldn't afford to buy food.
II) FEW is placed before a countable noun in the plural. (represents a little/ too little number of objects or people.)
- As he has only few friends, he can't hope to receive any help...
III) HARDLY any = little or few - depending on the following nouns. (The verb is in the affirmative form)
- There's hardly any petrol left. We'll have to stop to fill up the tank.
IV) A LITTLE + uncountable noun in the singular; it represents a LITTLE QUANTITY of...
- I like a little milk with my tea, whereas Pam has it with lemon.
V) A FEW + countable in the plural: a small number or amount. like for SEVERAL, the verb after it is in the plural.
- Several students had come, but a few of them were missing.
* LESS... (THAN)+ uncountable in the singular. (LESS is the comparative form of LITTLE)
- I have less water than he has... You should ask him to give you some.
* FEWER (THAN)+ countable noun in the plural (FEWER is the comparative form of FEW)
- There were fewer people than usual listening to the politician's speech.
* SUCH A LITTLE QUANTITY, a VERY SMALL QUANTITY:
- so little // so few...
* AN INSUFFICIENT QUANTITY, or NUMBER of...:
- Too little.../ too few...
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