AE 516: Few, A Few, Very Few, & Quite A Few – What’s the difference?
What’s going on, guys? Welcome to this advanced English lesson. Today I want to take you through, I want to show you, the differences between these common collocations with the word FEW, right? You’ll hear few, a few, very few, quite a few…There’s probably others but these are very common and they can mean completely different things. Ok? So let’s get into it.
Alright, so let’s go through FEW first, the word few. Few means a small number of something and it will be plural. A small number of things, it’s never one, it’s usually two, three, four. The idea being that it is not very many, but it is plural. It can have a negative meaning. So, it can mean not as much as expected or wished for. So, for example I have few friends as opposed to just saying I have three friends, I have four friends, which is just sort of a neutral statement.
If you say I have few friends, that’s the idea that you have a small number of friends and it’s less than expected or less than you wish for. Maybe you want more. I only have few friends. I have few friends. Another example: she has few talents. She has few talents. Again as opposed to saying she has two talents, three talents, four talents. The idea here is that she only has a small number of talents and it can be negative. It can be ahhh she only has a small number of talents, less than expected, less than wished for, ok? Few.
It’s not always negative, though. So, when you add this in with a time period in the future or in the past, it is just talking about a small number, right? So, for example I’ve lived in Australia for the last few years. That could be two years, three years, four years, but the basic idea being that I have lived in Australia for the last small more a number of years, ok?
Another example: it’ll rain for the next few days. So, it’ll rain for the next small number of days, it could be two days, three days four days. Probably won’t be many more than that. Ok? It’ll rain for the next few days.
Now let’s talk about A FEW. Ok? Now we’re using it as a noun, right? A few. A few. This just means some, a small number of some things, so it’s similar to few, but this time it doesn’t have that negative connotation. We need a few hours to do the job. We need a few hours to do the job. We need only a small number of hours to do this job, two hours, three hours, a very small number of hours. Another example: the car comes in a few different colours. That is that the car is available in only a small number of colours and it could be that you wish there were more colours. Ok?.
VERY FEW. Very few. A very small number. Now we’re sort of emphasizing how small that number is, right? That’s what varie is doing in front of few. Very few, not just a few, very few. So, he wants very few people present at his wedding. Meaning he only wants a very, very, very small number of people present at his wedding. The shop has very few products left for sale. The shop has only a very small number of products left for sale so, this is just a way of emphasizing how small that number of things is.
The last one here: QUITE A FEW, tends to be the complete opposite. And this is where it can be confusing. If I say quite a few, it is a surprisingly large number of whatever the thing is that you’re talking about, right? So it can have the complete opposite meaning of few or a few on its own, right? Where you will have a very small number. If you say quite a few, it’s a very large number and the same thing with that negativity, sorry, with that opposite meaning negative for few and a few as in less than expected, less than wished for. This is the complete opposite where it’ll be a positive meaning potentially, where it could be more than expected or more than wished for.
Ok? So, let’s see an example: the dog knows quite a few tricks. So, you could say the dog knows a few tricks and that would be he knows a couple, but if you say quite a few, that’s he knows a lot, right? The dog knows a surprisingly large number of tricks, more than you expected. Yeah, he knows quite a few tricks!
Another example: there are quite a few people eating at the restaurant. There is a surprisingly large number of people eating at the restaurant, more than you would expect.
So, now let’s go through and do some comparisons and we will do this over in the Aussie English classroom, guys. So, if you would like to join me there, make sure that you go to theaussieenglishclassroom.com, sign up to be a member, you can try it for just one dollar for your first month and you’ll get the rest of this video where we will compare all these different forms: a few, few, very few, quite a few, across a few different sentences and we will also talk about the difference between using little and few, right? A little, a few, little, few, very little, very few. So, join me over in the Aussie English Classroom, guys and I’ll see you there!