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 English Grammar for ESL learners 


FEW - LITTLE

(few - fewer - fewest / little - less - least)


FEW and LITTLE are both quantifiers.
Few  means  'not many'. →  Few questions were asked at the meeting.
Little means 'not much'. →  Little attention was paid to comfort.

The comparative forms are :
Fewer (than) : → Fewer than 50 brochures were distributed.
Less (than) :   → Less money was spent on advertising than last year.

The superlative forms are :
The fewest : →  In December we received the fewest number of enquiries ever.
The least :→ This car is the least expensive of all the models on show.

FEW-FEWER-FEWEST are used with countable nouns (one biscuit, two biscuits…)

FEW:
  • Few biscuits were left on the plate. (= Not many biscuits were left.).
  • Few people attended the concert. (= Not many people attended..)
  • Few readers noticed the advertisement.(=Not many readers noticed.).
  • Few countries provide really good public transport.
FEWER:
  • There are fewer customers in the shops today than yesterday. (= Not as many ...as)
  • Fewer people voted than was expected.
  • There were fewer accidents this year than last year.
  • We have fewer problems than before with the new system.
THE FEWEST:
  • Maria made the fewest mistakes in the English test. (= The lowest number of ...)
  • Jack's article received the fewest reviews.
  • Her comments always contain the fewest words possible.
  • The oldest model comes with the fewest features.
LITTLE-LESS-LEAST are used with uncountable nouns (milk, water, attention, energy, hope …)

LITTLE:
  • Little attention was paid to the warning (= Not much attention was paid.)
  • There was little hope of finding any survivors. (= There was not much hope).
  • There is little milk left in the jug. (= There is not much milk left.)
  • Little is known about the cause of the accident. (= Not much is known)
LESS:
  • Alex earns less money than Julia.(= not as much money as)
  • The new system is less satisfactory than the old one. (= not as satisfactory as)
  • My grandfather has less energy than when he was younger.
  • The book was less interesting than I expected.
THE LEAST:
  • The youngest pupils were given the least homework. (= the lowest amount)
  • The poorest people spend the least money.
  • Charlie did the least work of any of us.
  • Julie chose the least expensive item on the menu.


  Meaning Example
Few Not many/not a lot There are few melons in the shop today. We don't have much choice.
Fewer Not as many. The supermarket has fewer melons than the greengrocer .
Fewest The smallest number The shop has the fewest melons today.
Little Not much/not a lot There is little milk left in the jug.
Is there enough for breakfast?
Less Not as much We bought less milk yesterday than today.
Least The smallest quantity. The eldest child drinks the least milk.

NB:  A few and a little have a positive meaning. They indicate a small amount.
  • A few = a small number
    - There are a few melons = There is a small number of melons.
    - You’ll have to wait a few minutes for your order.
    - A few guidebooks are available at the reception.

  • A little = a small quantity or amount.
    - There is a little milk = There is a small quantity of milk.
    - She had a little money, enough for a sandwich.
    - Please tell us a little about your experience.

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