Also found in: Thesaurus, Legal, Idioms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
few a few
Few and a few are both used in front of nouns, but they do not have the same meaning. You use a few simply to show that you are talking about a small number of people or things.
When you use few without 'a', you are emphasizing that there are only a small number of people or things of a particular kind. So, for example, if you say 'I have a few friends', you are simply saying that you have some friends. However, if you say 'I have few friends', you are saying that you do not have enough friends and are lonely.
Few and a few can be used in a similar way as pronouns.
In conversation and in less formal writing, people don't usually use few without 'a'. Instead they use not many. For example, instead of saying 'I have few friends', people usually say 'I haven't got many friends' or 'I don't have many friends'.
Don't use 'few' or 'a few' when you are talking about a small amount of something. Don't say, for example, 'Would you like a few more milk in your tea?' You say 'Would you like a little more milk in your tea?'
|Adj.||1.||a few - more than one but indefinitely small in number; "a few roses"; "a couple of roses"|
few - a quantifier that can be used with count nouns and is often preceded by `a'; a small but indefinite number; "a few weeks ago"; "a few more wagons than usual"; "an invalid's pleasures are few and far between"; "few roses were still blooming"; "few women have led troops in battle"
few(fjuː) adjective, pronoun
a few means `some'.
see also less.