few little

(A) few, (a) little

Posted by on July 26th, 2018 | 0 comments | beberapa, determiners, grammar, IELTS, quantifiers, speaking, vocabulary, writing

Only some students hand in their homework on time.

Indonesian flag Elsewhere on GuruEAP we’ve looked at alternatives to ‘some’, which tends to be overused by Indonesians translating from ‘beberapa’, or, in the example above – ‘hanya beberapa’.

In this post we look at other alternatives to ‘some’ that are especially problematic for Indonesians because they are awkward to translate: few, a few, little, and a little.

As with all quantifiers, we need to begin by deciding whether the noun we’re quantifying is countable or uncountable.

(a) few + countable noun

Look at these two statements made by a teacher featuring the countable noun ‘student’:

  1. Few students hand in their homework on time.
  2. A few students forgot to hand in their homework.

Now answer these questions based on examples A & B:

  1. Which statement implies ‘not enough’?
  2. Which statement implies ‘some’?
  3. Which situation is most disappointing for the teacher?

  1. A. Few means ‘not enough’.
  2. B. A few means ‘some’.
  3. A. Few tends to be negative.

(a) little + uncountable noun

Now look at these two statements made by a student featuring the uncountable noun ‘time’:

  1. We had little time to prepare for the test. That’s why our grades are low!
  2. The teacher gave us a little time to prepare before the test. That’s why nobody failed!

Now answer these questions based on examples C & D:

  • Which statement implies ‘not enough’?
  • Which statement implies ‘some’?
  • Which situation is disappointing for the students?

  1. A. Little means ‘not enough’.
  2. B. A little means ‘some’.
  3. A. Little tends to be negative.


In terms of accommodation there are few options off campus. A few students have found boarding houses downtown, but these can be expensive. We recommend living on campus. Our halls of residence contain plenty of affordable rooms. A few rooms have ensuite bathrooms, but few have cooking facilities. However, most people don’t mind sharing a kitchen. During the day students have little time for socialising, and the kitchen is a good place to share a little conversation in the evenings. You can also go to the student bar for a few drinks at the weekend. And few students can stay away from the bar when major sports events are on TV! Finally, if you feel that you’re doing too little exercise, the fitness centre is open 24 hours a day!

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