Basic English Usage
Articles

Distinctions

Okay, pay attention! This is subtle stuff, but you will read it in the writing of many people.

The words few and little are used with the article a in unique ways.

Positive Statements

Use the phrases a few or a little when you want to express something in a positive/upbeat/happy/light way:

She can buy a new suit because she has a little extra money.

A few people stopped by to congratulate me.

Negative Statements

Don't use a in front of the words few or little when you want to express something in a negative/tired/sad/dark way:

She can't afford a new suit because she has little money.

Few people were interested in my reasons for lashing out.

Diminishing Statements

Use a when you combine the words only or just with the words few or little:

We have only a few donuts left.

It was just a few seconds! I can't believe everything went so bad so quickly.

We have only a little wine left.

It was just a little shaking. If the earthquake really was a 7.0, it must have occurred far away.

Lesson: Distinctions
Module: Articles
Course: Basic English Usage