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    Little versus Small

    Good evening. Is there any significant difference between the usage of these two words? Little and Small. Thank you very much

  1. banderas's Avatar
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    Re: Little versus Small

    Quote Originally Posted by daddyjohn View Post
    Good evening. Is there any significant difference between the usage of these two words? Little and Small. Thank you very much
    "When little and small both mean not large, with some nouns they can be used interchangeably with little or no difference in meaning:

    They lived in a little house in the country.
    They lived in a small house in the country.

    However, little also suggests that you feel sympathy for something, whereas small is more neutral and does not suggest this.
    Little is also more complicated than small because it can also mean not much. Small can only mean not large."
    When we define small as not large we are thinking about small in size, amount or number."

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    Re: Little versus Small

    An English teacher writes,
    There are some odd differences that you will run across. For instance, little carries an emotional factor that small usually does not: a strange little creature, a little troublemaker. Also, little tends to be more a premodifier: You made some small/little mistakes vs your mistakes were small / (?) little.

    Where they are otherwise synonymous in meaning and function the same grammatically, I personally think it's more a matter of historical collocation than anything else:

    little black book
    little brother
    Little Women
    small scale production
    a little bit
    small town
    a small amount
    small business
    small quantities
    small talk
    a small world

    Swan suggests that while small refers only to size (a small brandy), little also expresses some kind of emotion (a little [troublemaker]). Also that in BrE, little is unusual in predicative position while it is normal in AmE.

    There are of course many situations in which only one will do, semantically and grammatically:

    little doubt
    little one can do
    small-arm sales
    a little harder

    Small vs little
    Little vs. small
    A linguist writes,
    .... when it comes to actual usage, things get fuzzier. We're comfortable using the phrase, "He was a man of little patience" in formal writing. In that instance and others like it, "little" has a quantitative meaning. "Land of Little Rain," is very different from "And the small rain did fall." ... , we often mix big/large, little/small in the same register: we say "a big-time gambler," and "a small-time gambler," but never "a little-time gambler."

    I can only echo your lament: how does anyone who's not a native speaker
    ever learn the nuances of a language not his or her own. Alas!

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