Little vs. a little

In fact, these two words are too important. Therefore, they are confused a lot by the English learners.

"Little" vs. "a little" in the English Grammar

What Are Their Main Differences?

We can easily find their differences and similarities because they are majorly used in English. 'Little' means in a small amount, but less than needed while 'a little' means in a small amount but enough.


Little and a Little as Quantifiers

  • 'Little':

as a quantifier means a small amount or some that is not enough for us. Therefore, 'little' and 'a little' can be different by their meanings.

There is little water in the earth for next generations.

The doctor suggested to have little sugar per day to avoid obesity.

  • 'A little':

as a quantifier means a small amount or some that is enough and sufficient.

A little milk is left in the fridge. We can have it for breakfast.

Her mother spread a little jam on her bread.

Little as an Adjective

  • 'Little':

can be an adjective and it means small, but 'a little' cannot be used as an adjective.

Little girls are listening to the song. (Not "A little girls are listening to the song.")

When I was cleaning up the room I found a tiny little T-shirt that belonged to my one year old sister.

Little by Little

The expression little by little means step by step and gradually. For example, if something happens 'little by little' it happens gradually.

They got to know me little by little.

Little by little I learned how to teach in a comprehensible way.


Countable or Uncountable Nouns?

  • 'Little' and 'a little':

as determiners are both followed by an uncountable noun.

She rubbed a little butter on the bread with grace.

We cannot make anything with this little dough.

Little and a Little as Pronouns

  • 'Little' and 'a little':

both can be the pronouns of the sentence. In this case, they are not followed by any nouns.

"How much money is left?" "Little is left. We cannot make it through the year."

She doesn’t know my problems. I told her a little.

as Little as

As little as is used to say a quantity or amount is surprisingly small.

I will finish the book in as little as 2 days.

It takes as little as five seconds for a rubber to break in to your house.

Little of and a Little of

A little of and little of are used before noun phrases. Check out the examples to learn the structure.

She put a little of the onion in to the pan and broiled it with oil.

Little of their money was left after going broke.

a Little and Little as Adverbs

  • 'A little' and 'little':

can be adverbs with the same meaning. In this case, both mean 'a bit' and 'not much'.

Be just a little kind please. (Not "Be just little kind please.")

The country has changed little over the time.


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