Talk:few

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"less than usual"? What is usual? And I thought a few was more than 2, rather than more than 1. Isn't 2 a pair?

OK, I checked some dictionaries, and they all said more than 2, so fine. But how do we reword "less than usual"?

How about "less than many", or "less than several", or "less than a lot"? Nanobug

"less than usual" implies there is an expected usual, number. However there are instances where there is no 'usual'. For example, Winston Churchill when speaking about fighter pilots during the Battle of Britain, refered to 'the few'. There was no 'usual' number of RAF fighter pilots.

To me, a few means a small number, greater than two, from a larger group. Markb 08:31, 26 July 2005 (UTC)

Few as meaning three[edit]

Today my wife, who is from Texas, came out with what, to me, was an astounding proposition: a few means three. Just so you can place my English, I'm originally from England, and have lived more than half my life in the north of Scotland. So I looked up Wiktionary and found that, under usage notes it said "Few normally indicates a quantity of three." This was added by an unregistered poster using a General Motors IP address, so presumably also from USA. More than one person in the discussion at http://ask.metafilter.com/mefi/29978 agrees with this dogmatic view, though this is by no means the only viewpoint expressed there. I have modified this Wiktionary entry as I don't see it in any other dictionary I've consulted. --PeterR 13:46, 14 February 2007 (UTC)

I learned that few meant 2; another word for couple. I guess that is not necessarily so anymore.

Say more about where you learned this. It is difficult to detect this meaning by our usual search in books.google.com and similar sources. I would love to get a lot of reports of this usage, with which I am unfamiliar.
To me, few means "three or more, but not several". "Several" might be "six to nine". So few means 3, 4, or 5. But it might also mean a small proportion, as in "few New Yorkers". DCDuring TALK 00:55, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

I had a similar debate with my girl friend. We are Australian, her being from North-Queensland and me being from Victoria.. Which i guess is somewhat similar to the England - Texas thing (language wise). I said i would be back from holidays in a few days and she seemed to think that that meant 3 days exactly. Quite odd 203.202.144.223 00:35, 12 September 2008 (UTC)

Of course I'm not native English speaker, but I have believed that few is a relative term. If there are one million bacteria in one sample and one hundred in the second, one can say that there were few bacteria in the second sample. --Hekaheka 06:28, 12 September 2008 (UTC)
Agreed. I think that three is probably the most common meaning of few, but is very much a context dependent word, and its meaning is only limited by being greater than one......most of the time. -Atelaes λάλει ἐμοί 06:51, 12 September 2008 (UTC)
I am British by birth and I would say that when the choice is from a small range of numbers (for example the number of days since you got back from holiday), "a couple of days" would be 2 days and "a few days" would be three days and certainly no more that four. So a few is bigger than two and rarely four or more. But Hekaheka is also right. It does rather depend on sample size. When are talking of a very large population of numbers such as bacteria numbering many millions, a few from that just means a very small percentage... So ten thousand in a sample of a million could also be a few.
I believe a few to be two or three or perhaps four, but since I'm not a native English speaker, I write a general idea here. If you know a number is exactly two, you use two, not a few, because it's more precise. However, the larger a number is, the less important preciseness is. For example, you can say around forty even when you know it is forty-two, because the difference between 40 and 42 is small enough. There may be people who think two must be precisely said but three doesn't have to be. I'd like to know what they say for four things. Several? — TAKASUGI Shinji (talk) 00:44, 28 March 2011 (UTC)

Wiktionary:Requests for verification - kept[edit]

Kept. See archived discussion of February 2009. 07:00, 26 February 2009 (UTC)

few and a few[edit]

Some of the definitions here should be moved to a few. Even though few and a few are etymologically related, their functions are almost opposite. The former is rather negative semantically while the latter is positive. — TAKASUGI Shinji (talk) 07:20, 21 April 2011 (UTC)