What part of speech is this?

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What part of speech is the word "little" in the following sentence - "They knew so little about him"? Is it a pronoun or an adverb? Thank you.​
 
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apex2000

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What part of speech is the word "little" in the following sentence - "They knew so little about him". Is it a pronoun or an adverb. Thank you.


Little is an adjective; a descriptive word. So is an adverb in other use but here it is adding meaning to little and 'so little' is an adjective relating to 'him'. Consider: I am better now, thank you - I am much better now, thank you - I am very much better now, thank you.
Your sentence could be simply 'they knew little about him'.
 

susiedqq

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They / knew / little

so (little)
about / him

little is a noun (direct object of knew) and tells "what" they knew.

so and about / him are adjectives describing the "little"

Little could be little news, little gossip, little facts, etc. etc.
 

apex2000

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They / knew / little

so (little)
about / him

little is a noun (direct object of knew) and tells "what" they knew.

so and about / him are adjectives describing the "little"

Little could be little news, little gossip, little facts, etc. etc.
This adds confusion. They knew little is incomplete unless little is, say, a name.
They knew him is straightforward. They knew little gossip (about him), the object is gossip and little, the adjective describes gossip.
 

susiedqq

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Sorry if I confused you.

"Little" is an amount or quantity of something. I was giving you some ideas for what that amount might be (gossip, news)

We knew some about him

We knew bad news about him

We knew nothing about him.

We knew the gossip about him.

All these are used as nouns in those sentences.

You must look at the function of the word, not just the word, when you are determining what part of speech it is.
 

Buddhaheart

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I think Yara84 is correct: ‘little’ is an adverb in this context. ‘So’ is also an adverb qualifying the adverb ‘little’. ‘Little’ qualifies the verb ‘knew’. It tells how little they knew about him. It can’t be a pronoun. It’s not used as a noun here. It can’t be an adjective as it does not modify ‘him’.
 

Dawood Usmani

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I think Yara84 is correct: ‘little’ is an adverb in this context. ‘So’ is also an adverb qualifying the adverb ‘little’. ‘Little’ qualifies the verb ‘knew’. It tells how little they knew about him. It can’t be a pronoun. It’s not used as a noun here. It can’t be an adjective as it does not modify ‘him’.
I do agree with you and Yara84. This is certainly an adverb here.
Regards!
Dawood
 

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So, as I can see, there is no consensus on this issue.
Is it an adverb or a noun, the question is now.
 
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