A few and few, a little and little
These expressions show the speaker's attitude towards the quantity he/she is referring to.
A few (for countable nouns) and a little (for uncountable nouns) describe the quantity in a positive way:
· "I've got a few friends" (= maybe not many, but enough)
· "I've got a little money" (= I've got enough to live on)
Few and little describe the quantity in a negative way:
· Few people visited him in hospital (= he had almost no visitors)
· He had little money (= almost no money)
They function like comparatives and hold a relative position on a scale of increase or decrease.
INCREASE From 0% to 100%
With plural countable nouns:
With uncountable nouns:
DECREASE From 100% to 0%
· There are many people in England, more in India, but the most people live in China.
· Much time and money is spent on education, more on health services but the most is spent on national defence.
· Few rivers in Europe are not polluted.
· Fewer people die young now than in the seventeenth century.
· The country with the fewest people per square kilometre must be Australia.
· Scientists have little hope of finding a complete cure for cancer before the year 2,000.
· She had less time to study than Paul but had better results.
· Give that dog the least opportunity and it will bite you.
Quantifiers with countableand uncountable nouns
Adjectives and adjectival phrases that describe quantity are shown below. Some can only go with countable nouns (friends, cups, people), and some can only go with uncountable nouns (sugar, tea, money, advice). The words in the middle column can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns.
Only withuncountable nouns
With uncountableand countable nouns
Only withcountable nouns
How much? or How many?
a bit (of)
a number (of)
a great deal of
a lot of
a large number of
a large amount of
a great number of
Note: much and many are used in negative and question forms.
Example: try to check whether the sentences are right or wrong (check box)
· How much money have you got?
· How many cigarettes have you smoked?
· There's not much sugar in the cupboard.
· There weren't many people at the concert.
They are also used with too, (not) so, and (not) as :There were too many people at the concert - we couldn't see the band.It's a problem when there are so many people.There's not so much work to do this week.
In positive statements, we use a lot of:
· I've got a lot of work this week.
· There were a lot of people at the concert.
Some and Any
Some and any are used with countable and uncountable nouns, to describe an indefinite or incomplete quantity.
Some is used in positive statements:
· I had some rice for lunch
· He's got some books from the library.
It is also used in questions where we are sure about the answer:
· Did he give you some tea? (= I'm sure he did.)
· Is there some fruit juice in the fridge? (= I think there is)
Some is used in situations where the question is not a request for information, but a method of making a request, encouraging or giving an invitation:
· Could I have some books, please?
· Why don't you take some books home with you?
· Would you like some books?
Any is used in questions and with not in negative statements:
· Have you got any tea?
· He didn't give me any tea.
· I don't think we've got any coffee left.
SOME in positive sentences.a. I will have some news next week.b. She has some valuable books in her house.c. Philip wants some help with his exams.d. There is some butter in the fridge.e. We need some cheese if we want to make a fondue.
SOME in questions:a. Would you like some help?b. Will you have some more roast beef?
ANY in negative sentencesa. She doesn't want any kitchen appliances for Christmas.b. They don't want any help moving to their new house.c. No, thank you. I don't want any more cake.d. There isn't any reason to complain.