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    #1

    little or a little

    Which one would you choose? I would say A. The question is if B is also possible. Do you think that the sentence is ambiguous? Should I add more context to avoid ambiguity? I would appreciate your help.

    We've got ___________ water here. We have to find a river or something to fill our flask.
    A. little B. a little C. a few D. few


    Thank you.

  1. Donbelid's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: little or a little

    Only "A" is true if you consider "we have to find a river" since when you have "a little water" it means you have some water after all !! and you don't have to find a river; maybe you'd better find one.

    Still, I wouldn't give an item like this to students. They might get confused and think that "a little water" is not true at all. I would replace Choice B. with something else.

  2. IHIVG's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: little or a little

    Quote Originally Posted by Donbelid View Post
    Only "A" is true if you consider "we have to find a river" since when you have "a little water" it means you have some water after all !! and you don't have to find a river; maybe you'd better find one.
    It depends. You don't know how much water is needed. What if you're on a trip in the mountains with five kids who are awfully thirsty. 'A little' is not enough in this case.

    Maybe the A answer is a bit closer to the point, but I think you can't say that either of these is wrong. If I were a student and they marked B as an incorrect answer, I would be really mad.

  3. euncu's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: little or a little

    Quote Originally Posted by IHIVG View Post
    If I were a student and they marked B as an incorrect answer, I would be really mad.
    Don't get mad but A seems to be the only correct answer here.

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    #5

    Re: little or a little

    Thanks. Do you think that B is incorrect? Can you justify it?

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    #6

    Re: little or a little

    Should I rather put it like this (it's for the students)? Is it any better now or should I give 2nd variant to choose among?

    We've got ___________ water here. We have to find a river or something otherwise we'll get dehydrated.

    1. A. little B. a little C. a few D. few


    2. A. little B. much C. a few D. few

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    #7

    Re: little or a little

    Quote Originally Posted by Gillnetter View Post
    Either A or B could be correct. Most sentences are more or less ambiguous. To avoid ambiguity in this sentence, you could write - "We've got two pints of water here." Whether you use pints, quarts, gallons, or anything else is not important - what is important is that the amount be less than a full flask - however much that is.
    "We got two pints of water here. We have to find a river or some other source of water to fill our flask, which holds two quarts of water.
    Thank you for your suggestion, but in that case I cannot test the proper use of quantifiers (a) little, (a) few, much, many, etc.

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    #8

    Re: little or a little

    Quote Originally Posted by Mzungu39 View Post
    Which one would you choose? I would say A. The question is if B is also possible. Do you think that the sentence is ambiguous? Should I add more context to avoid ambiguity? I would appreciate your help.

    We've got ___________ water here. We have to find a river or something to fill our flask.
    A. little B. a little C. a few D. few

    Thank you.
    I think your question is a good test question; you don't need to change it. A is clearly the correct answer. B is not correct.

    "little" is negative; it stresses the you have only a small or very small amount of water, an inadequate amount. So you have to find a river or something quite soon.

    "a little" is positive; it stresses that you have more than just a small or very small amount of water, a more adequate amount. So your situation is not as serious as if you only had "little water".

    The same is true for "few" and "a few" with countable nouns.

    We have few reasons to support him. (negative = shouldn't support him)
    We have a few reasons to support him. (positive = should support him)

    A bad test question is one in which there are two or more equally good answers, or no good answer.

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    #9

    Re: little or a little

    [QUOTE=IHIVG;588249]It depends. You don't know how much water is needed. What if you're on a trip in the mountains with five kids who are awfully thirsty. 'A little' is not enough in this case.

    I think it's not the question of how much water is needed but rather of how much (or little) water you still have...

  4. IHIVG's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: little or a little

    Quote Originally Posted by Mzungu39 View Post
    I think it's not the question of how much water is needed but rather of how much (or little) water you still have...
    Your answer of how much water you have will depend on your inference of how much water is needed. You have to apply common sense and relate it to situation.

    My respose was to the Donbelid's statement; (s)he said that 'a little' would imply that you don't have to find a river and thus the B answer is incorrect. I gave the example of a situation when 'a little' would still be a correct answer and the original context of the test question does not preclude me from thinking that my situation is irrelevant.

    The connotation of both 'little' and 'a little' is 'less than enough' so you can get away with either answer.

    I think if a test question intruduces any sort of ambiguity it should be either get rid of or fixed by leaving only one possible correct answer.

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