What is the difference between ‘a few’ and ‘few’?
By Mr. Mike Elmaleh, Utah, USA, (24th Dec.2006).
Let's take a hypothetical situation. Suppose there is a 'bandh' and you don't expect anyone to come to work. You go to your office and you find that ten of your colleagues have turned up. You are quite surprised and happy. In this context you would say, 'A few people turned up for work'. 'A few' means 'some'. In this case, your focus is on the number of people who turned up for work, and not on those who did not. In other words, you are looking at the positive side of things. If, on the other hand, your focus is more on the negative aspect - you are worried about the people who didn't turn up for work rather than those who did- then you would say 'few'. Few people turned up for work. In this context, few mean ‘hardly any’.
Here are a few more examples.
* Few CDs were available. (Hardly any CDs were available)
* A few CDs were available. (There were some CDs available)
* Few people in my school speak Hindi. (Hardly anyone in my school speaks Hindi)
A few people in my school speak Hindi. (Some people in my school speak Hindi)
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