(a) few and (a) little

  • We use few with plural nouns, and little with singular (uncountable) nouns. Compare:
      Few politicians are really honest. I have little interest in politics.
  • There is a difference between a few and few, and between a little and little. Few and little are rather negative: they mean ‘not much/many’. A few and
    a little are more positive: their meaning is more like ‘some’. Compare:
      His ideas are very difficult, and few people understand them.
      ( = not many people; hardly any people)
      His ideas are very difficult, but a few people understand them.
      ( = some people — better than nothing)
      Cactuses need little water. Give the roses a little water every day.
  • Few and little (without a) are rather formal. In conversation, we prefer not many, not much, only a few or only a little.
      Only a few people speak a foreign language perfectly.
      Come on! We haven’t got much time!