Few vs a Few: Difference and Comparison

In the language of English, there are numerous words and each word has its own synonyms which can be used as a replacement for that respective word.

But sometimes, two similar words may have a different meaning when used in a sentence. One of the examples of such words is few and a few.

Key Takeaways

  1. “Few” implies a small, insufficient, or negative quantity, conveying a sense of scarcity.
  2. “A few” suggests a small but still notable or positive number without the negative connotations associated with “few”.
  3. Using the appropriate term depends on the intended meaning, with “few” emphasizing lack and “a few” emphasizing presence.

Few vs a Few

Few is used to describe a small number of things, which carries a negative connotation. “few people attended the meeting” means that not many people came.  A few are also used to describe a small number of things, but it carries a more neutral or positive connotation. For example, “a few people attended the meeting” means that some came. 

Few vs a Few

Few means hardly having anything or almost signifies nothing compared to the whole quantity. Few can be used as a pronoun in any sentence.

When the word “few” is used in a sentence, it gives negative thoughts or ideas. It expresses pessimism in a sentence or words spoken by a person.

A few means having something or little of the whole quantity expressed.

A few cannot be used as a pronoun in any sentence, but in rare circumstances, it can be used. When “a few” is used in a sentence, it gives positive thoughts or ideas. It expresses optimism in a sentence or words spoken by a person.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonFewA Few
MeaningFew signifies not much of the quantity and almost nothing.A few signifies a little or some of the whole quantity.
ConnotationThis connotes an insignificant amount.This does not connote an insignificant amount.
NounIt can be used as a pronoun in any sentence.It cannot be used without a noun in the sentence.
ThoughtsIt expresses pessimism.It expresses optimism.
QuantityExpresses little quantity as compared to a few.Expresses more quantity as compared to few.

What is Few?

Few means hardly something or almost nothing. It signifies very little quantity in comparison to the whole amount. Few is used to represent any things or people, expressed in numerical amounts or terms.

Also Read:  Dinning vs Dining: Difference and Comparison

The term “few” in a sentence can not express quality or any other attributes. When “few” is used in a sentence, it necessarily means a quantity of the subject used.

The word “few” is derived from old English. Few got its root from the word “flawed” which signifies a small number or little.

Feawe is an old English used in early times, and eventually, the pronunciation of flawed became few while speaking. Hence, the term few was derived. In short, the etymology of few comes from the Middle English “few” and Old English “flawed.

Few are used as a plural noun, and cannot be used in a sentence with a singular noun, as few only express quantity and not qualities or other attributes.

Few connotes an insignificant amount as it means hardly anything or almost nothing. Few give pessimistic thoughts or ideas when used in a sentence as it signifies virtually nothing of the whole quantity.

Hence, it is essential to be aware of the word “few” and use it wisely only in the sentence where their usage is required.

What is a Few?

A few means a more minor or some amount. It signifies a little more quantity in comparison to the whole quantity. A few indicate any non-living or living things that can be expressed in numerical amounts or terms.

The term “a few” in a sentence can not be used to express quality or any other attributes. When “a few” is used in a sentence, it means the quantity of the sentence.

A few and few have the same etymology. That is, they both are derived from the exact words of the Old and Middle English used in ancient times.

Also Read:  Bye vs Buy: Difference and Comparison

However, “a” is the noun that is added before few to signify a little more quantity than the word “few” alone. Hence, “a few” means greater quantity than the term “few” used in the sentence.

A few are used as a plural noun, and it cannot be used to express singular nouns as the term “a few” signifies quantity and not qualities or any other attributes.

A few connote a significant amount as it means something of the whole quantity. A few give optimistic thoughts or ideas when used in a sentence as it signifies a small number of the entire amount.

Hence, it is essential to understand the term “a few” to speak and write proper English.

Main Differences Between Few and a Few

  1. A few express a higher quantity than few when used in the sentence.
  2. Few give pessimistic thoughts and ideas when used in the sentence, while a few give optimistic thoughts and ideas when used in the sentence.
  3. Few in the sentence signify an insignificant amount of the whole quantity, while a few signify a significant amount.
  4. Both few and a few are derived from the same old English word, but the noun “a” is added to the term “a few” while few is a singular noun used in the sentence.
  5. Few can be used as a pronoun, while the term “a few” cannot be used without a noun in the sentence.
Difference Between Few and a Few
References
  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=4m1qBJX1UJIC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=grammar&ots=QQRyGt1iVk&sig=2NuYIT5D9Q9nBeFq8X0TrqKL8KA
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Ezm0BQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=grammar&ots=FqubPk-s1i&sig=1zOUeBPqvOiolUWtKlel7kVqKZc


Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

dot 1
One request?

I’ve put so much effort writing this blog post to provide value to you. It’ll be very helpful for me, if you consider sharing it on social media or with your friends/family. SHARING IS ♥️

6 thoughts on “Few vs a Few: Difference and Comparison”

Leave a Comment

Want to save this article for later? Click the heart in the bottom right corner to save to your own articles box!