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Welcome to English In A Minute. Give us a minute and we'll give you a hot tip about English. Grammar, vocabulary... there's so much to learn! And all taught by your favourite BBC Learning English staff!

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Few & A few

Do you have a minute to spare to learn some English? Saskia gives us a few tips on the difference between few and a few. Give us 60 seconds and we'll give you the English!

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Saskia
Welcome everyone. Today we're going to look at the difference between few and a few.

Have a look at these two sentences. Which sentence has a more negative feeling?

  1. I have few friends.
  2. I have a few friends who live in London.

It was sentence number one right? When we use few, we're saying that the total number of something is not as many as we would like – that the number is small. Here, I'm telling you that I don't have many friends.

When we use a few, we're not talking about the total number, but a category of something. It has a similar meaning to 'some'. Here, I'm telling you that some of my friends live in London.

Just remember, we always use this with countable nouns only, so please be careful. See you next time!

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Did you like that? Why not try these?

EIAM Teaser 6mingram_li_19_too_very_enough.jpg 6mingram_3_quantifiers.jpg______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Few and A few

Countable nouns
Both few and a few are only used with countable nouns.

  • There are few books written in that language any more.
  • We have a few minutes.
  • I have a few cans of beans. Are you hungry?

Few
Few means that the total number of something is not as many as we would like. The number is too small. 

  • I have few friends.
  • There are too few people for a party.

A few
A few
talks about a category of something. It's meaning is similar to 'some'. 

  • I have a few friends who live in London.
  • Do you have a few cups I can borrow? I'm having a party today!

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