Few, A Few, Very Few, & Quite A Few – PART 2
Alright, so, comparison number one: I have relatives. This is just this basic statement. Ok? I have relatives, which means I have an unspecified number of relatives. We know it’s plural because relatives is a plural word so, it could be two relatives. It could be a million relatives. We don’t know how many, it’s unspecified, right? So, now if I say I have few relatives, how’s that changed this sentence? It’s changed it by suggesting I have a small number of relatives, less than expected, less than wished for, ok? So, if I say I have few relatives, it’s kind of like I wish I had more and I don’t have very many.
What if I say I have a few relatives? Now it’s kind of lost that negative connotation, but it’s still suggesting I have some/a small number of relatives, right? I have a small number of relatives. I have very few relatives, very few. Now I’m emphasizing the fact that it’s a very small number, right? I have only a very small number of relatives less than I’d like. Now what happens, though, when I say quite a few relatives? Think about that inversion. Now I’ve changed the meaning completely, right? I have quite a few relatives means I have a surprisingly large number of relatives more than you would expect. So, that’s the complete opposite of I have few relatives or I have a few relatives. Small number, right? A very few relatives. Small, small, small number. Now I’m saying I have quite a few relatives meaning I have a lot, potentially more than you would expect.
Let’s go to comparison number two now: there were people at the beach. This is this neutral statement. We know that there is more than one person at the beach because of the word people, but we don’t know if it’s two and we don’t know if it’s a million. Could be any number, right? There are people at the beach, it’s an unspecified number of people at the beach. So, what happens when we say there were few people at the beach? This means there was a small number of people at the beach maybe less than expected. Few people, maybe two, maybe 50, but the idea here is that it’s a small number less than you would expect so, if you’re expecting 50 million, if you only have 50, that’s very few, right? It’s few.
There were a few people at the beach. Now it means that there were a small or there was a small number of people at the beach, but it’s it’s got that change in meaning slightly that it’s not necessarily less than expected, it’s just a statement there were only a small number of people at the beach.
There were very few people at the beach. Now we’re emphasizing how small that number was, right? There was a small number of people at the beach potentially less than expected. That’s why I’m emphasizing it. Oh no man there were very few people at the beach! Not 50, not 10, so few, very few, just two, right? A very small number.
Now what happens when we say there were quite a few people at the beach? We’ve completely changed the meaning. Now if I go down the beach and I have a look around and I say Oh, there are quite a few people at the beach! That means I’m surprised at the number and that there are a lot, right? There was a surprisingly large number of people at the beach, more than expected.
Alright, comparison number three: people think that smoking is dangerous. People think smoking is dangerous. Just neutral statement, people, again plural, we know it’s more than one person, but we don’t know how many. So, it’s an unspecified number of people think that smoking is dangerous. Few people think that smoking is dangerous. Ok, now this means a very small number of people think smoking is dangerous, less than expected. So, maybe you were expecting 100 people think that smoking is dangerous, but it turns out it’s just too, few people. Few of the people you know think it’s dangerous.
A few people think that smoking is dangerous. Ok, so now it’s some, a small number of people think smoking’s dangerous. Very few people think that smoking is dangerous. Now I’m emphasizing how small that number is, no no no, it’s not just few, it’s very few. It’s a very, very small number, right? A very small number of people think that smoking is dangerous.
And the last one where we completely change the meaning: quite a few people think that smoking is dangerous. A very large number of people think that smoking is dangerous, more than expected. So, now I want to compare little and few. So, I wonder if you guys know when and why you will use the word little compared to the word few, right?
So little we use to mean a small amount of something, but it’s uncountable nouns. So, time, money, water, air, right? Things that you don’t have multiple units of, it’s uncountable. So, for example she has little time to help. So, she has a very small amount of time to help. They require little caring for. That means they require a very small amount of care from you, right? They require a little caring for, you you don’t have to care for them much, whereas few we use with plural countable nouns. So, in all those previous examples you’ll see that that is a plural noun and it’s countable. There are multiple units, right? So, for example I have few friends. I have a small amount of friends, which are countable nouns, right? One friend, two friends, three friends. There are few animals in the forest. Animals, animal. It’s countable. It’s plural in this case, few animals in the forest so, there are a small amount of animals in the forest.
So, let’s go through and compare some sentences, right? And how and when we will change these words little and few. So, for example, money, the word money is uncountable. You have some money. You have a lot of money. You don’t have one money, you don’t have two moneys, right? Whereas if we use units like a dollar, we can make it is countable, right? It’s plural and it is countable, dollars, right? One dollar, that’s singular and countable, but then dollars, three dollars, four dollars, so this is when we can use few. So, let’s have a look. I’ve got little money, meaning I have a very small amount of money. I’ve got a few dollars, meaning I have a very small amount of dollars, right? So, these effectively mean the same thing, exactly the same thing. One is with a countable noun. The other is with an uncountable noun money. I’ve got a little money. So, okay I have some money, but it’s a small amount. I’ve got a few a few dollars, I have some dollars, but it’s a small amount of dollars. I’ve got very little money, now I’m emphasizing ok, the amount of money I have is very small. I’ve got very few dollars. The amount of dollars that I have is very, very small and the very last one I’ve got quite a little money. We would never say, ok? So, this is where this change, you will never say quite a little money, if it’s a lot of money, you’ll just say quite a lot of money in this case. That’s where these rules are broken and the patterns aren’t necessarily the same for different words.
I’ve got quite a lot of money, is what I would say if I’m trying to say it’s a large, a surprisingly large amount of money. However, if I’m using a plural countable noun I could say I have quite a lot of dollars, but I would probably say I’ve got quite a few dollars, ok? I’ve got quite a few dollars. That’s a surprisingly large amount of dollars. Alright, comparison number two: time is uncountable. Hours, minutes, seconds, days, weeks, years are all plural and countable nouns, right? Well, they can be singular, but in this case if they’ve got the S on the end they’re plural, right? So let’s go through some sentences: they’ve little time left.
They have a very small amount of time left, but if we use a plural countable noun we have to use the word few. They’ve few hours left. Hourts, they’ve few minutes left, they’ve few seconds, they’ve a few days left. They’ve a little time left, they have a small amount of time left. They’ve a few hours left, they have a small amount of hours left. They’ve very little time left. Now we’ew emphasizing it, right? They have very little time left. Have very few hours left, again emphasizing it.
Now remember what I said in the previous one, we don’t say quite a little. We will say quite a lot if we’re trying to emphasize an uncountable noun like time, ok? They’ve quite a lot of time left, you’ll never say quite a little, ok? But in the case of plural countable nouns with few hours left, you will say quite a few. You can also say quite a lot. So, they’ve quite a few hours left. They’ve quite a lot of hours left, ok? Don’t forget, if you say a lot of, you need that of in there, a lot of something, a few something, the of doesn’t need to be there.
So there you go, guys! I hope that helps you understand few, a few, very few and quite a few. Ok? And I hope it also helps you learn how to use little for uncountable nouns: time, money, air, water and few for plural countable nouns, right? Hours, people, beaches. So, that’s it for this episode, guys, let me know what you think in a comment below. Go over it, revise it, try writing some sentences out using these different rules, comment those below as well if you would like to see…if you would like to practice it and I’ll see you in the next one and if you have some suggestions as to words or collocations you would like me to do in these episodes, let me know and I’ll try and do it. See you, guys!