a few

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a few

  1. A small number of; more than two.
    After a dismal few months my life at long last changed for the better.
    • 1909, Archibald Marshall [pseudonym; Arthur Hammond Marshall], chapter II, in The Squire’s Daughter, New York, N.Y.: Dodd, Mead and Company, published 1919, →OCLC:
      "I don't want to spoil any comparison you are going to make," said Jim, "but I was at Winchester and New College." ¶ "That will do," said Mackenzie. "I was dragged up at the workhouse school till I was twelve. Then I ran away and sold papers in the streets, and anything else that I could pick up a few coppers by—except steal. []"



a few

  1. A small number of things.
    Regrets, I've had a few, but then again too few to mention.
    Did everyone go home? --No, a few (of them) are still chatting.

Usage notes[edit]

A few and few without a differ in emphasis. Few emphasizes that the number is not as large as expected, while a few emphasizes the fact that the number, while small, is not zero but more than two.


I was expecting lots of people at the party, but few turned up.
I wasn't expecting any young people at the party, but a few turned up.

Note that when a few is preceded by another determiner, a is dropped. The few and every few mean “the group of a few” and “every group of a few” respectively.

Derived terms[edit]