What is the difference between “few” and “a few”?

It is interesting how an article, when it precedes a word, can change the meaning of the sentence altogether, and one such word is “Few.” The context becomes completely different when the article “a” precedes it. The words few and a few are often used interchangeably; the difference is subtle but notable.

While few connotes a negligible quantity or an insignificantly small number, a few signifies ‘some’ or ‘a handful.’ For instance,

I met many people at the event and even made few friends. 

It means in an event full of people, a very small number of them were befriended. 

I met many people at the event and even made a few friends. 

Adding the article does not indicate having made many friends, but it does indicate that the number of friends isn’t too small either.

Now that you know the primary difference between few and a few, understand the impact of choosing the right word in academic and technical writing.

When make the right choice between few and a few in academic and technical writing, it clarifies and corrects the context of the sentences, making it impressive to read and enhances the quality of the language. For instance,

Few studies have shown that lack of physical activity impacts mental health too. 

 It means there are very less studies that have shown the correlation between physical activity and mental health. In other words, more studies are needed to find out the link between physical activity and mental health.

A few studies have shown that lack of physical activity impacts mental health too. 

It shows there are at least some studies, if not many, that show the impact of physical activity on mental health.

Therefore, few and a few describe a small quantity or number, but few emphasizes the scarcity. Note that the phrase quite a few indicates a lot.

For instance, I read quite a few research papers this month, which means many research papers were read; the number is significant.

So, now that you know the difference between few and a few, go ahead and impress your readers by using these words in the right context always and enjoy the appreciation you get for understanding the intricacies of the commonly confused words.

You might also like

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.