Originally Posted by F1578
Generally speaking, "a few" indicates something that is positive, and "few" indicates something that is negative.
Here are two examples:
Few customers were in the new restaurant on Friday night. This was disappointing to the owner. He was expecting more customers to show up.
Even though it was late on Sunday night, there were still a few customers at the bar ordering drinks. This was pleasing to the owner because business had been slow recently.
So generally, "few" is used more to show an absence, and "a few" shows that something is present. This is a generality. It is mostly true. We should keep in mind that "a few" can be used in a negative way as well.
Because it was cloudy and it looked like it was going to rain, only a few people showed up to the cookout. James felt a little down about this because he had been preparing for it the whole week.