The Difference between A FEW and FEW in English

The Difference between A FEW and FEW in English

In this full tutorial for beginners’ learners are going to learn the difference between A Few and Few in English. A Few and Few are quantifiers used with plural countable nouns. Quantifiers describe the number or quantity of something.

Before we proceed, watch the video here.

The general meaning of “a few” and “few” is a small number of something.


Situation: There are five pillows on the bed.

So, we can say;

There are a few pillows on the bed.

There are few pillows on the bed.

These two sentences are both grammatically correct and describe the situation but…There is an important difference in meaning!

So, there’s quite a big difference in meaning between these two sentences.

Let’s look at the difference:

Important difference in meaning

Situation: Dan has 3 dogs.                         Tim also has 3 dogs.

Dan: “I have a few dogs.”

“a few” means “a small number” but Dan is satisfied with the number.

“a few” means ‘some’. The feeling or opinion is neutral.         

Tim: “I have few friends.”

“few” means “a small number” but Tim is not satisfied with the number.

“few’ suggests that the small number is not enough.

“few’ has a negative feeling.

“few” suggests that Tim would prefer to have more visitors.

Both sentences are grammatically correct. The big difference is the opinion and feeling so the difference is the point of view or the opinion. This is more negative.


1. Dan: My father sent me a few CD’s yesterday.

Dan received 3 CD’s yesterday.

Dan does not have a negative feeling about receiving 3 CD’s. The tone is neutral and objective. The meaning is simply “My father sent me some CD’s yesterday.

Tim: My father sent me few CD’s yesterday.

Tim also received 3 CD’s yesterday. “few” CD’s suggests that Tim was expecting more. The tone is slightly negative.

2. Dan and Time are journalists. They are each writing an article about a tennis player called Roger Federer.        

(Situation: Roger Federer at Wimbledon last season.)

Dan: “Roger scored a few points last season.”

This sentence is objective and neutral.

There is no judgment, he is not criticizing Roger Federer.

Tim however writes: “Roger scored few points last season.”

 Now, this sentence suggests that Tim has a negative opinion. Maybe Tim thinks that 4 points was not enough.

3.  Helen: “Most of his articles are boring, but there are a few that I like.”

This sentence is objective and neutral.  “Most of his articles are boring” but there

are a few that she like.

Carl: “Most of his articles are boring, but there are few that I like.”

This sentence suggests that Carl has a negative opinion.

few” that he likes emphasizing the smallnumber.

Countable and Uncountable Nouns

We use “a few” and “few” only with countable nouns.

I have a few bags.ü

I have few bags.ü

We not use “a few” and “few” with uncountable nouns.

                        I have a few soup. X

                        I have few soup. X

For Uncountable nouns, we use “a little” and “little”.

So, there we are, that’s the end of this tutorial, hope you understand now the difference when to use “a few” and “few” in English.

Downloadable Material

Here’s the downloadable material of Tutorial on The Difference between A FEW and FEW in English here.

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