Few vs Little – What’s the difference?

There are several words in the English language that holds almost the same meaning. But they sound different, spell different, and have different usage. The words “few” and “little” belong to that category.

Few” and “little” are quantifiers that we commonly use in our speech and writing. They both are used as adjectives and have similar meanings. They both indicate something that is less.

But both the words have some differences in their usage that distinguish one from another. Let us discuss the differences in detail to understand these words accurately.

Few vs Little – Difference

Few

Few” is a common quantifier that one engages with regularly. It basically defines something that is less in number or none. It generally indicates something that is not many. The important point is that “few” is used or applied when talking about countable nouns. It is used to refer to a small number of things or people that can be counted.

Few” defines something that is not enough. It is mostly used in a negative sense. When we use “few” with countable nouns, we are referring to that there are not enough of those things, or there are hardly any.

Let us make it easier with some examples;

  • She had few books.
  • That person asked me few questions.
  • That little boy has few chocolates.
  • Few people get the chance to meet their idols.
  • I had few friends.

Here, we can notice that “few” refers to something that is less or not enough in number. We need to realize that all of them are countable nouns. Like friends, chocolates, books, etc. They all can be counted. Some more examples are;

  • He has few watches.
  • Few families survived the pandemic.

Little

Little” on the other hand, is slightly different than “few”. But when we talk about its meaning, it is almost similar. “Little” is also used to describe something that is small in number or amount. It indicates that something is less or is not enough, similar to “few”.

The main difference between “little” and “few” is that “little” is used with uncountable nouns. “Little” refers to a small amount of things that cannot be counted or separated into numbers. It is always viable with concepts or substances. It is more abstract than “few”. Here there is no definite number.

For example;

  • The gold has little value in the market now.
  • I got very little sleep the previous night.
  • I have little water left in my bottle.
  • During the pandemic, families received little or no help from the government.

We see, “little” describes something that is less. But the things it is referring to are uncountable. They are uncountable nouns, and they cannot be separated. For instance, advice, value, help, water, etc.

So, we can now clearly look at their differences and realize that they are not the same after all. They can mean the same, but their usage differs vastly, and interchanging them can cause errors. So, remember these differences thoroughly.

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