What's the difference?

General_Ricardo   Thursday, May 13, 2004, 03:44 GMT
Hey guys I have a question for you.
What's the difference between " a few" and " few"?
I asked my English teacher this question last year, but his answer didn't make any sense to me.
Jim   Thursday, May 13, 2004, 04:15 GMT
Usually "a few" means "some" whereas just "few" means "not many" but be careful of "quite a few", "a fair few" or "a good few" which mean "lots". Perhaps the dictionary would make things clearer.


few (SOME) [Show phonetics]
determiner, pronoun
1 a few some, or a small number of something:
I need to get a few things in town.
There are a few cakes left over from the party.
We've been having a few problems with the new computer.
If you can't fit all the cases in your car, I can take a few in mine.
"How many potatoes do you want?" "Oh, just a few, please."
NOTE: a few is used with countable nouns. Compare little (small).

2 used in expressions such as 'quite a few' or 'a good few' to mean quite a large number:
I know quite a few people who've had the same problem.
Lots of people at the club are under twenty, but there are a good few who aren't.


few (NOT MANY) [Show phonetics]
determiner, pronoun, noun, adjective
a small number, not many or not enough:
It was embarrassing how few people attended the party.
He is among the few people I can trust.
Very few people can afford to pay those prices.
We leave for France in a few days.
Few of the children can read or write yet.
Few things in this world give me more pleasure than a long bath.
Fewer people smoke these days than used to.
We get few complaints.
According to the survey, as few as 10% of us are happy with our jobs.
The benefits of this scheme are few.
NOTE: few is used with countable nouns. Compare little (not enough).