W1S1 [fju:] determiner, pron, adj comparative fewer superlative fewest
[: Old English; Origin: feawa]
1.) [no comparative]
a small number of things or people
a few
I have to buy a few things at the supermarket.
Pam called to say she's going to be a few minutes late.
There were a few people sitting at the back of the hall.
There are a few more things I'd like to discuss.
few of
I've read a few of her books.
I could suggest many different methods, but anyway, here are just a few .
There are only a very few (=not many) exceptions.
the last/next few
The office has been closed for the last few days.
every few days/weeks etc
The plants need to be watered every few days.
the/sb's few days/weeks etc
She had enjoyed her few days in Monaco.
2.) quite a few/a good few/not a few
a fairly large number of things or people
She must have cooked a good few dinners over the years.
quite a few/a good few/not a few of
There were hundreds of protesters, not a few of whom were women.
3.) not many or hardly any people or things
≠ ↑many
low-paid jobs that few people want
Many people expressed concern, but few were willing to help.
The team that makes the fewest mistakes usually wins.
few of
Very few of the staff come from the local area.
Mr Wingate was full of explanations, but precious few (=hardly any) of them made sense.
the few
The cathedral was one of the few buildings not destroyed in the war.
This hospital is one of the few that are equipped to provide transplant surgery.
sb's few belongings/friends etc
I gathered together my few possessions.
4.) no fewer than
used to emphasize that a number is large
I tried to contact him no fewer than ten times.
5.) as few as 5/10 etc
used to emphasize how surprisingly small a number is
Sometimes as few as 20 out of 500 or more candidates succeed in passing all the tests.
6.) to name/mention but a few
used when you are mentioning only a small number of people or things as examples of a large group
This is a feature of languages such as Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese, to name but a few.
7.) the (privileged/chosen) few
the small number of people who are treated better than others and have special advantages
Such information is made available only to the chosen few.
The needs of the many have been ignored -- instead, the priority has been to bring benefits only to the few.
8.) be few and far between
to be rare
Jobs are few and far between at the moment.
9.) have had a few (too many) informal to have drunk too much alcohol
He looks as if he's had a few!
WORD CHOICE: a few, few, a little, little, a bit, fewer, less
a few and few are used before plural nouns.
a few means 'a small number' : It will take a few minutes. | I've got a few friends who live nearby.
few means 'not many'. It emphasizes how small the number is. It is mainly used in writing or formal speech : Few people would deny her talent. |He has few interests outside his work.
In spoken English or informal writing it is more usual to say not many : Not many people saw what happened.
a little and little are used before uncountable nouns.
a little means 'some, but not a lot' : We still have a little time left.
In spoken British English, it is more usual to say a bit : 'Are you tired?' 'A bit.' |I've got a bit of money left.
little means 'not much'. It emphasizes how small the amount is. It is mainly used in writing or formal speech : There is now little hope of success.
In spoken English or informal writing it is more usual to say not much : There was not much milk left.
The comparative of few is fewer : Few people have read the book, and even fewer understand it.
The comparative of little is less : We know little about his adult life, and less about his childhood.
!! Sometimes people use less before a plural noun, but many people think that this is incorrect, so it is better to use fewer : a village of fewer (NOT less) than 200 inhabitants

Dictionary of contemporary English. 2013.

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  • few — [ fju ] (comparative fewer; superlative fewest) function word, quantifier *** Few can be used in the following ways: as a determiner (followed by a plural noun): Few people live there now. There were a few animals in the barn. as a pronoun: Many… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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  • few — ► DETERMINER , PRONOUN , & ADJECTIVE 1) (a few) a small number of. 2) not many. ► NOUN (the few) ▪ a select minority. ● few and far between Cf. ↑few and far between …   English terms dictionary

  • few — (adj.) O.E. feawe (plural; contracted to fea) few, seldom, even a little, from P.Gmc. *faw , from PIE root *pau few, little (Cf. L. paucus few, little, paullus little, parvus little, small, pauper poor; Gk. pauros …   Etymology dictionary

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