Countable and uncountable nouns 2

Do you know how to use a few, few, very little and a bit of?

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

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Soumis par bojms45 le lun 26/04/2021 - 03:28

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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!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Maahir le dim 14/03/2021 - 07:40

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Sorry I meant. Is it OK to bring a few friends or Is it OK to bring few friends
Hi Maahir, I think "a" in "a few friends" is not an article for "friends". And as in the grammar explanation above, "few friends" means the amount of friends is not enough or less that expected while "a few friends" means enough or more than expected.

Soumis par Maahir le dim 14/03/2021 - 07:19

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Hi, which sentence is correct. Is it OK to bring a few friends or Is it OK to bring a few friends. I chose the second one considering that A article can't be used with plural nouns. I mean, is it a few friend or few friends?. Thanks for your tremendous help.

Soumis par Jonathan R le lun 15/03/2021 - 02:26

En réponse à par Maahir

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Hi Maahir,

It's true that we can't use a or an with plural nouns. But we can use it in some quantity phrases, e.g. a few friends, a large number of friends, a lot of friends. In these phrases, a refers to another noun (few / large number / lot), not to friends directly.

A few friends has a positive meaning (i.e. some friends) and few friends has a negative meaning (i.e. not enough). So, the first option is right for your question.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par qurtubi le mer 02/12/2020 - 08:21

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Hallo, I still don't understand the difference between "some" and "a few", which i can use in sentence?hopefully you're can answer my question. Thanks

Hello qurtubi,

'some' and 'a few' have very similar meanings. I'd say that 'some' is a little less specific than 'a few', which is often used to refer fewer items than 'some'. But both are very relative and so I'm afraid there is no specific number of items they refer to, because both can refer to groups that are relatively small (for example, the people in a class) or to millions (for example, the number of cars in a country).

In terms of grammar, 'some' can be used with both count and uncount nouns, whereas 'a few' can only be used with count nouns.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Zuu kyarr wan le jeu 19/11/2020 - 03:10

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Can I write as “There are a few differences”? Thank you Zuu Kyarr Wan, English learner

Hello Zuu kyarr wan,

Yes, that's perfectly fine. You can also use 'few' without 'a', but the meaning is a little different:

There are a few differences = there are some

There are few differences = there are not many/I think there is only a small number

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Tim_Bui le ven 21/08/2020 - 04:45

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Hi there, I found this sentence "Shall we get a coffee?". As I know "coffee" is an uncountable noun so why we use "a coffee"? Thanks.

Soumis par hamzahh le mer 15/07/2020 - 13:23

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Well detailed , however. I still don't understand the difference between "a few" and "few", Thank's for advance for youre answer.

Hello hamzahh,

Sometimes grammars say that 'a few' has a positive or optimistic meaning and 'few' has a more negative or pessimistic meaning. For example, if I say I have a few friends, it suggests that I'm happy with the number of friends I have. But if I say I have few friends, it suggests that I wish I had more friends than I do.

Does that help you make more sense of it?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Ethan hunt le mer 24/06/2020 - 10:47

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Hello sir why there is need to revise grammer time to time

Hello Ethan hunt

There are many reasons, but one is that most of us often only partially understand what we learn at the time we learn it. As we encounter and practise using grammar, we often discover new aspects to it.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Lal le dim 24/05/2020 - 14:35

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Hello Sir The word 'handsome' is only for males or could it be used for females also. Please let me know. Thank you. Regards Lal

Hello Lal,

It is possible to use handsome to describe a range of things, including houses and paintings, for example. It's also possible to describe women with the word, though it is less common than with men. It suggests a beautiful and mature woman rather than someone younger.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par krollos le lun 11/05/2020 - 13:15

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Some people use "a little bit", How can we use it?

Hello krollos,

A little bit can be used in several ways. The most common are:

It can modify uncountable nouns (a little bit of money, a little bit of time).

It can modify a verb (I walked for a little bit).

It can also modify an adjective (She was a little bit sad).

Generally, a little bit is quite informal in style.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Aimee19 le lun 13/04/2020 - 03:22

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please tell me why I can't use "few'' for space??? I think ''space'' is a plural noun

Hello Aimee19,

Space is a singular noun. It can be an uncountable noun when we are talking about the general concept of an area (I need more space than this) or it can be a countable noun when we are identifying particular locations (My cat loves to lie in the spaces between our chairs).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Cassie le sam 11/04/2020 - 12:52

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thanks Oxford online I had a lot of questions about it

Soumis par George Ngegba le mar 24/03/2020 - 01:09

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I total appreciate this Oxford online English. It has actually helped me in my writing and speaking. I knows that with time I am going to learn more from this forum. Thanks!

Soumis par Sanja le lun 03/02/2020 - 21:38

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Thank you for this very clear explanation. I was realy confused about this.