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    • Join Date: Jan 2007
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    #1

    a little / a lot

    Hi everyone,

    This is my first post.

    Could someone please help me to understand why (a) is acceptable and (b) isn't?

    a) It cost a lot to repair the car.
    b) *It cost a little to repair the car.

    In Grammar for English Language Teachers, Parrott (2000:38) suggests, in his discussion of the adverbs of quantity a lot, a little, and much, that "[w]e generally use a little only in affirmative statements."

    Although (b) is an affirmative statement, it sounds very odd, to my ear, at least. Could this be because a little is a downtoner that is expressing a negative meaning even though the statement itself is affirmative?

    Thanks very much!

    Shelley

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    • Join Date: Dec 2006
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    #2

    Re: a little / a lot

    Quote Originally Posted by segan View Post
    Hi everyone,

    This is my first post.

    Could someone please help me to understand why (a) is acceptable and (b) isn't?

    a) It cost a lot to repair the car.
    b) *It cost a little to repair the car.

    In Grammar for English Language Teachers, Parrott (2000:38) suggests, in his discussion of the adverbs of quantity a lot, a little, and much, that "[w]e generally use a little only in affirmative statements."

    Although (b) is an affirmative statement, it sounds very odd, to my ear, at least. Could this be because a little is a downtoner that is expressing a negative meaning even though the statement itself is affirmative?

    Thanks very much!

    Shelley
    What do you think if we say the following?

    "You really want to repair the car. That may cost you a little."

    Is this coreect in your wany of using English? It seems fine for me. But I just don't know why your second sentence doesn't sound right.

    To me, we usually use "little" to contrast "a little" and "few" to contrast "a few". In both cases the former is affirmative and the latter is negative. Apparently in the second sentence, the writer wants to express affirmative meaning.


    • Join Date: May 2006
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    #3

    Re: a little / a lot

    Hi,
    It cost a little is a weird collocation. If it's supposed to be the opposite of It cost a lot, then I'd say
    It didn't cost much or It cost little.
    I'm trying to work out why a little sounds odd here...Perhaps because it can either refer to uncountable nouns - There was a little caviar on the plate - or actions -Let's dance a little. Cost is from another category.
    Regards


    • Join Date: Jan 2007
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    #4

    Re: a little / a lot

    Hi, and thanks for your thoughts.

    Example (b) wasn't meant to express an opposite. If we can't sort out why it isn't quite right, then whatever the reason might be is going to sail well over the heads of my students. The answer may well be somewhere in the depths of my Quirk et al, but I'm going to go with the "weird collocation" explanation instead, and suggest that this one just doesn't fall into the using "a little" in affirmative statements category, exactly why Parrott noted that this is "generally," rather than always, true.

    Thanks,

    Shelley

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