'A Few' and 'Few.' - Learn English Grammar Online

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


Edgar: Hello. Today we’ll talk about the difference between ‘a few’ and ‘few’.

Alan: Ok, Edgar. Can you explain?

Edgar: Well, when we use ‘a few’, the idea is positive; it means that something exists, in other words, there is some or a small amount of something.

Alan: And ‘few’, without ‘a’?

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

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

Edgar: Well, it can only be used to refer to countable things, like, people, cars, games, buildings. Countable things.

Alan: I see. Can you give me an example?

Edgar: Sure. There are a few places I would like to visit in Europe.

Alan: So, there are three or four places you’d like to visit in Europe, right?

Edgar: That’s absolutely right, Alan.

Alan: And, what about ‘few’, without ‘a’?

Edgar: It indicates that there is a small number of things or people at a place. For example: There were few people at my party, but they were close friends and we had a great time.

Alan: There were not many people at the party, right?

Edgar: Right.

Alan: Well, does that mean I can say that I don’t have few, but many questions about English?

Edgar: Yes, Alan. You can say that…let’s listen to some dialogues and see if you have fewer questions later.

Conversation 1

Poe: Good morning, Melissa. I’d like to show you a few emails we’ve received from our client in Toronto.

Melissa: Sure, Poe. Is there a problem?

Poe: Well, there are a few problems. First, he isn’t happy about the last delivery. It seems like a few items were missing.

Melissa: I’ll look into it. What else?

Poe: He said a few of the items he did receive were defective. And he complained that we didn’t answer his emails promptly.

Conversation 2

Poe: Melissa, I spoke to the client and explained we had few people on staff, but we would take care of all his complaints.

Melissa: Did he understand the situation? Few companies would be that patient.

Poe: Yes. I told him very few items were missing.

Melissa: Good. We have few clients right now. We have to keep them happy!

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