Quantifiers: 'few', 'a few', 'little' and 'a bit of'

Quantifiers: 'few', 'a few', 'little' and 'a bit of'

Do you know how to use a few, few, very little and a bit of? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how these quantifiers are used with countable and uncountable nouns.

I have a few friends, so I'm not lonely.
She has few friends, so she's quite lonely.
We've got a bit of time before our train. Shall we get a coffee?
We've got very little time before our train. Hurry up!

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Countable and uncountable nouns 2: Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

A few and a bit of or a little mean some. Often we feel this amount is enough or more than we expected. We use a few with plural nouns and a bit of or a little with uncountable nouns.

I have a few ideas.
I've brought a few friends.
There's a bit of milk left.
It needs a little more work.

We use few and very little to show that we are talking about a small amount. Often we feel this amount is not enough or less than we expected. Few is for countable nouns and very little is for uncountable nouns.

Few people came to the meeting.
There are few places where you can still see these birds.
We have very little time.
I have very little money.

Note that you can use little without very, but it is less common and sounds quite formal.

She had little water.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Countable and uncountable nouns 2: Grammar test 2

Average: 4.1 (47 votes)

Hello g-ssan,

The idea is that the speaker is asking permission to bring some friends. In a situation like this, generally there's not feeling that the number of friends isn't enough and so 'a few' is the correct choice to express this meaning.

Strictly speaking, I suppose it is possible for 'few' to work in this sentence as well, but it would be very unusual.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi amlan1234,

They aren't the same. "A few" means a small number. "Some" means a more general amount, which can be small or large.

For example, if you have two or three books, you can say I have a few books. You can also say I have some books.

But if you have a larger number, e.g. 100 books, you can say I have some books (or I have a lot of books), but not "a few".

Does that make sense? You can let us know if you have any questions.


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by scottrive on Fri, 15/07/2022 - 09:20


When I want to keep focus on ‘10’ and ‘welfare’ and I want to mean the sense of “10 types of welfare”.
What should I write in brief but right? 10 welfare, OR, 10 welfares.

Hi scottrive,

In this case, the noun needs to be countable (since there are 10 of them). You can say "10 welfares" but I think "10 types of welfare" is clearer.

I hope that helps.


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Faii on Sun, 15/05/2022 - 08:17


Do 'a few' and 'the few' mean the same ?
In my textbook it says - "the few" means " nor many " .So does it refer to some ?

Hello Faii,

Yes, 'a few', 'few' and 'the few' all refer to a small number of people or things, and so in that way have a similar meaning to 'some'.

'the few' has the same meaning as 'few', but the definite article 'the' shows that the speaker is referring to a group of people or things that they think the person they are speaking to is already familiar with. Perhaps they've already been talking about it or it could be obvious for some other reason in the situation.

It's a little difficult to explain without a specific example, so if you had any specific sentences in mind, please let us know.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Muhannad M Hammoud on Fri, 01/10/2021 - 16:51


It's helpful, thanks.

Submitted by bojms45 on Mon, 26/04/2021 - 03:28

I'm confused about the sentence "There is very little space in this room.". Since space can be plural, why don't we use "few" in this sentence?

Hello bojms45,

'Space' can be countable or uncountable, depending on the meaning you have in mind.

When it is countable it describes individual parts of a room which are physically identifiable. For example, a hospital ward where there are many beds has a certain number of spaces for patients. However, when we talk in general terms about whether or not a particular location is cramped or not for whatever is in it we use 'space' as an uncountable noun:

There's so many boxes in here that there's no space for anything else!



The LearnEnglish Team