Difference Between Few and a Few

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.

Few vs a Few

The main difference between few and a few is the meaning when it is used in the sentence. When “few” is used in a sentence, it states “not much” while “a few” states that some or little amount. Few in a sentence states negatively while a few in the sentence states positively.

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 the words “a few” are used in a sentence, it gives positive thoughts or ideas. It expresses optimism in a sentence or words spoken by a person.

Comparison Table Between Few and a Few

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 quantity. Few is used to signify any things or people which can be expressed in numerical quantities or terms. The term “few” in a sentence can not be used to express quality or any other attributes. When “few” is used in a sentence, it necessarily means a quantity of the subject used in the sentence.

The word “few” is derived from old English. Few got its root from the word “feawe” which signifies a small number or not much. Feawe is an old English used in early times and eventually, the pronunciation of feawe become few while speaking. Hence, the term few was derived. In short, the etymology of few is from the middle English “fewe” and old English “feawe”.

Few are usually used as a plural noun and it cannot be used in a sentence where there is a singular noun as few only expresses quantity and not qualities or other attributes. Few connotes an insignificant amount as it means hardly anything or almost nothing. Few generally give pessimistic thoughts or ideas when used in a sentence as it signifies almost nothing of the whole quantity.

Hence, it is very important 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 smaller or some amount. It signifies a little more quantity in comparison to the whole quantity. A few are used to signify any non-living or living things which can be expressed in numerical quantities 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 same words of the old and middle English used in ancient times. However “a” is the noun that is added before few to signify a little more quantity in comparison to the word “few” alone. Hence, the term “a few” signifies greater quantity than the term “few” used in the sentence.

A few are generally 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 generally give optimistic thoughts or ideas when used in a sentence as it signifies a small number of the whole quantity.

Hence, it is very important 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 in comparison to few when used in the sentence.
  2. Few give negative or pessimistic thoughts and ideas when used in the sentence while a few give positive or 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 in the sentence signify a significant amount of the whole quantity.
  4. Both few and a few are derived from the same old English word but a 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.

Conclusion

Both the terms “few and a few” are only used to express the quantity of the subject in the sentence and never used to express quality or any other attributes of the sentence. Both are derived from the same old and middle English words “feawe” and “fewe”. In short, they both have the same etymology.

The term “a few” express more or a higher quantity in comparison to the few used in the sentence. A few express an optimistic idea while few express a pessimistic idea. It is very important to understand the differences between a “few” and “a few” and used them wisely in the sentences or while speaking.

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


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