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    #1

    Cool few & a few

    Hi,

    Is there a difference between: "I have a few hobbies" and "I have few hobbies".

    & "I have a little leisure time" and "I have little leisure time".

  1. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: few & a few

    When you use only "few" or "little" wthout the "a" you are emphasizing how small they are in number.

    Four hobbies may be plenty to me, but seem like a ridiculously small number of hobbies to you.

    I may say, "I have a few hobbies. I like to read, and write, and ride my bike, and watch TV."

    You may then say to someone else "She has few hobbies. She must be bored a lot."

    I may think that having a small number of good friends is better than a large number of so-so friends.

    I say, "I have a few good friends: Ann, and Betty, and Catherine."

    You think three friends shows that I have no social life. "I feel so sorry for her," you say. "She has few friends."

  2. BobK's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: few & a few

    ... and when you use 'a few' to mean 'several' you can emphasize it by adding the word 'quite'. Similarly, you can emphasize the missing 'a' by adding 'very':

    He has very few friends
    He has few friends
    He has a few friends
    He has quite a few friends

    And even:

    He has really quite a few friends

    b

  3. engee30's Avatar
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    #4

    Question Re: few & a few

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    ... and when you use 'a few' to mean 'several' you can emphasize it by adding the word 'quite'. Similarly, you can emphasize the missing 'a' by adding 'very':

    He has very few friends
    He has few friends
    He has a few friends
    He has quite a few friends

    And even:

    He has really quite a few friends

    b
    Great.
    What about a very few friends?

  4. BobK's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: few & a few

    Quote Originally Posted by engee30 View Post
    Great.
    What about a very few friends?
    I thought about that, but chickened out of mentioning it because it doesn't seem to fit in the scheme:

    very few < few < a few < quite a few

    While it doesn't seem to fit in, I think it does - so long as you think of the "very" as intensifying the word following it. This means that 'a very few' is less than 'a few', but more - I think - than 'few'. When saying 'a very few', the speaker has decided they want to say something more than 'few', says 'a', and then realizes there's a risk of exaggeration - so adds 'very' to tone down 'few'.

    This makes the full sequence:

    very few < few < a very few < a few < quite a few

    But as with all such clines, theory is neater than practice and views differ.

    b

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