Quantitative words (words that associate a number with them) are all over the place in English! You’ve probably heard of words like “few,” “some,” “many,” and “several” before. Did you know that each of these words comes with a different meaning and a different amount based on the context, though. So, let’s find out the answer to two simple questions. What is a few? And how much is a few?
How Many Is A Few?
The definition of “a few” in numbers are relative to the overall amount. It typically means two or more but is always used when the overall amount of things is already defined. For example, if ten people attend a party, a few can be male, while the others are female. The exact number isn’t relevant, but “a few” is used to show probably only about three or four.
However, if we look at the term in relative means and compare it to an audience of 100,000 people, a few would mean something else. If you said “a few of the audience is disruptive,” you could be talking about anything from a dozen to a few hundred or even a thousand. That’s why “a few” is such a relative term, and there’s no real way to give it a precise number that might help with the explanation.
Some people like to believe that “a few” is the next logical step up from “a couple,” which would make it equal to three, but this is a common misconception. A few can equal a lot more than three, but it can just as easily equal two in certain cases. It entirely depends on the context, and you’ll want to get used to that before using it yourself.
10 Examples Of How To Use “A Few” In A Sentence
Now that we’ve covered the general idea behind the relativity of the quantity of “a few,” it’s time to look at how we might use it in sentences. We’ll give you plenty of examples here to give you a wide range of when you might use it. You’ll notice that in each case, the overall number is either directly stated or already implied, which is where we use “a few.”
- A few of the party guests are getting hungry.
- A few of the audience members won’t be quiet.
- A few of my friends already have cars.
- A few of my family haven’t met my daughter yet.
- I dedicated a few of my last twenty years to my career.
- The last few years have flown by. (The relative amount is the entire lifespan of the speaker).
- The last few sentences make perfect sense.
- The next few weeks are going to be exciting. (Again, few is used relative to a year, a few weeks could be two or more of the fifty-two weeks in a year)
- I’ll need a few minutes to get ready.
- I’ll give you a few ideas.
You’ll see in most cases that the quantity is implied, though there are some situations where it seems that “a few” is used as a standalone number. There’s always something to compare it to, though. If you look at “a few minutes to get ready,” then someone is referring to the minutes in an hour. They’ll only need a few to get ready. The same goes for “a few ideas,” they’ll have plenty of ideas about various things, but they’ll give “a few” to you about what you’re asking for.
Synonyms For “A Few”
Okay, now that we’ve got that sorted, it’s time to look at a few alternatives to “a few” (see what we did there). If you aren’t comfortable using the term because you’re worried you might get the context wrong, don’t worry! There’s always a workaround in English, and you can swap it out for a different word that holds the same meaning.
- Hardly any
A good way to say that not many of the overall number of things or people are referred to.
- A small number
This time, we’re directly saying that it’s a small number of things, but we’re not saying the exact number.
- One or two / three or four
If you have a rough idea of the number of things, you can use the “number or number” phrase to emphasize it.
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Martin is the founder of Grammarhow.com. With top grades in English and teaching experience at university level, he is on a mission to share all of his knowledge about the English language. Having written thousands of articles, he is an expert at explaining difficult topics in a simple language.
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