Quantifiers: Few, Little, Lots Of

Quantifiers are an important part of English grammar. We can use a few, a little, a lot and lots of to mean “not very much”, “not very many” and “plenty of”. The one you choose depends on what type of noun you are describing.

Few and little

We use a few with plural, countable nouns. For example, “A few people came to the party.”

We use a little with uncountable nouns. For example, “There’s a little coffee left, if you would like some.”

We can also use few and little (without “a”) to mean very few or very little (i.e. much less in quantity).

For example, “There’s little point in calling” (= there’s not much point calling).
“There were few people at the concert.”

“A few” is more in quantity than “few”; and “a little” is more in quantity than “little”.
“Few people understand” (not many people understand), compared to “a few people understand” (some people understand).

In spoken English, we can also say not many, or only a few to mean “few” and only a little or not much to mean “little”.
“Not many people came to the party.” Or “Only a few people came to the party.”
“There was only a little petrol left in the car.” Or “There wasn’t much petrol left in the car.”

Making comparisons with quantifiers

The comparative form of “few” is fewer, and the comparative form of “little” is less.

Remember: use “fewer” for plural, countable nouns, and “less” for uncountable nouns.
For example, “There are fewer people here than last year” or “He drinks less coffee than I do”.

It is grammatically incorrect to say “There are less people here than last year”, as “people” is a plural countable noun.

Lots of and a lot of

In spoken English we often use lots of or a lot of. In written English, it is more common to write many (for countable plural nouns) or a great deal of (for uncountable nouns) in positive statements.

A common mistake is to use lot of. For example, “There are lot of accidents on this road”. To avoid making this mistake, remember either to use a before lot, or to make lot plural – lots.

We can say either a lot of or lots of before a noun. For example, “There are a lot of people here” or “There are lots of people here”. There isn’t any difference between the two expressions.

Quantifiers used as adverbs and short answers

We can use quantifiers like “a lot”, “a little” or “not very much” as adverbs.

For example:
“She talks a lot“.
“He doesn’t eat very much!”
“She’s beginning to go out a little after the accident.”

We can also use these quantifiers as short answers.

For example:

“Do you like swimming?”, “Yes, a lot.” / “Not very much.” / “A little!”

For more information on types of nouns, see our page on English articles.

Now try our grammar exercise on quantifiers!

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25 thoughts on “Quantifiers: Few, Little, Lots Of”

  1. I am pretty sure that saying ” There ARE a lot of people here” is incorrect as A lot (One lot) is a singular noun. So, It should be there IS A lot of people here. another way of saying it would be: There are lots of people here.

  2. No: “a lot of” means the same as “lots of”. The verb you need (whether is / are) depends on the noun.

    There is a lot of coffee left. (coffee = uncountable noun, singular verb)
    There are a lot of people here. (people = plural noun, plural verb)

  3. Hey guys I would like to know how should we be saying this.
    “Here’s a few pics from last night” or “Here’re few pics from last night”.

  4. You could say “here are a few pics from last night”. (“Here’s a” isn’t strictly correct, as you use “is a” with a singular noun, but you have “a few pics” – a plural noun.)

  5. Thanks Clare. I got it. So whole idea is to use are with countable plural nouns and is with uncountable plural nouns.

  6. I understand that the quantifiers “a few” and “a little” apply to count and uncount nouns respectively. But when we say: “Does your tooth hurt”? “Yes, a little”–little refers to hurt, which is a verb, not a noun. Am I missing something?

  7. You’re right! We can also use “a lot” or “a little” as adverbs:
    “My tooth hurts a lot” / “My tooth hurts a little”.

  8. Guys, is it possible to say ‘the surf was little heavy to carry’ ?
    Is an article ‘a’ is mandatory here?
    What part of a sentence it plays then?

  9. Hi Dmytro
    You need “a little” to modify an adjective. So “It was a little heavy to carry”. (You could also say here “a bit heavy” or even “a little bit heavy”. So in this example, “a little” functions as an adverb because it modifies an adjective. One thing I was confused about in your sentence was your noun “the surf”. Did you mean something else? (Surf is like a wave in the sea, which we can’t carry.)

  10. Nice lesson!
    It clears some doubts in everyday spoken english!
    Thanks Clare!
    More power to ur elbow!

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