We always confuse when to use a little, when to use a few. Below are some tips for it.
The expressions a little and a few mean some.
- If a noun is in singular, we use a little
- a little money
- If a noun is in plural, we use a few
- a few friends
Countable / Uncountable Nouns
In connection with a little / a few people often speak of countable nouns and uncountable nouns.
Countable nouns have a singular and a plural form. In plural, these nouns can be used with a number (that's why they are called 'countable nouns'). Countable nouns take a few.
- 4 friends – a few friends
Uncountable nouns can only be used in singular. These nouns cannot be used with a number (that's why they are called 'uncountable nouns'). Uncountable nouns take a little.
- 3 money – a little money
Note: Of course you can count money – but then you would name the currency and say that you have got 3 euro (but not „3 money“).
A Little / A few or Little / Few
It's a difference if you use a little / a few or little / few. Without the article, the words have a limiting or negative meaning.
- a little = some
little = hardly any
- I need a little money. - I need some money.
- I need little money. - I need hardly any money.
- a few = some
few = hardly any
- A few friends visited me. - Some friends visited me.
- Few friends visited me. - Hardly any friends visited me.
Without the article, little / few sound rather formal. That's why we don't use them very often in everyday English. A negative sentence with much / many is more common here.
- I need little money. = I do not need much money.
- Few friends visited me. = Not many friends visited me.