'A Little' and 'Little.' - Common Mistakes - Confusion Lesson

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In this lesson we will talk about the difference between ‘a little’ and ‘little’.


Karin: Hello. Today we’ll talk about the difference between ‘a little’ and ‘little’.

Dana: And what’s the difference?

Karin: Well, when we say ‘a little’, the idea is positive; it means that something exists, it is present.

Dana: And ‘little’, without ‘a’?

Karin: That gives a negative idea, that something is largely absent. It sounds like you need more.

Dana: Oh! I think I understand. Does it refer to people and things?

Karin: Well, it can only be used to refer to uncountable things, like, water, light, rice, food. Uncountable things.

Dana: Okay. Can you give me an example?

Karin: Sure. I’m very pleased because this year I’ve been able to save a little money.

Dana: I got it. You have some extra money. So I can say that yesterday I watched a little TV, referring to the amount of time I spent watching it.

Karin: That’s absolutely right, Dana.

Dana: And, I ate a little popcorn, too.

Karin: Oh, man. Now I feel like eating some. Anyway, we use ‘little’, without ‘a’, for a negative idea. Something is absent. For example: now, I’m bummed because I have little money and can’t go to the movies and eat a little popcorn…

Dana: Hey, I thought you’d saved a little money this year.

Karin: Not really…that was just an example.

Dana: Oh, come on! You cleared my doubt. Let’s go to the movies together. My treat! On the way, can you teach me the difference between ‘a few’ and ‘few’?

Karin: That’ll have to wait for another day, and another movie, my friend.

Conversation 1

Carol: Hi, Rodger. Want to go out for lunch?

Rodger: I’d love to, but I have very little time today.

Carol: Oh, too bad. Well, I have a little extra time today. Want me to bring you something?

Rodger: Great! Could you bring me a little rice and beans?

Carol: No problem. See you in a little while.

Conversation 2

Rodger: Hey, Carol. Did you hear about Mrs. Abbot, from accounting?

Carol: No, what happened?

Rodger: She had very little gas in her car and little money, she almost didn’t make it home yesterday…poor woman.

Carol: Look on the bright side. She did make it.

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