How Much Is Few?


All Ears English listeners have asked us for guidance when using quantity words like few, some, several, and many. Today, Lindsay and Aubrey will advise when these terms should be used.

Few typically refers to more than one and less than a lot; however, exact figures can differ depending on context and intent.

Sense 1: A small number

There are many different ways to describe how much of something there is, depending on the context. Common English phrases like few, some, many, and several can all mean slightly different things because each term comes with an associated amount – few and some being relative terms while many and several being more precise.

Few is a highly versatile word; it can refer to any number that falls below two and to larger groups. Some people may use “few” to refer to more than two people; its definition depends on the context and scope of your discussion.

Notably, few should never be used to describe an exact number; rather it always refers to small amounts instead of multiple or most. So, for instance, if there are ten people at a party, you could say there were “a few of them” while saying there were “a few of the crowd” wouldn’t make sense.

Like “a few,” “some” refers to any number that falls below two or three people, making an impactful statement about your writing style and tone. Understanding these distinctions will enormously affect how readers perceive your text.

Sense 2: A small amount

Few is frequently used with other words that describe quantities. If you have several potatoes, for instance, you might describe it as having “a handful.” This signifies the small amount you would not normally be expected to possess, more than one or two at once. This same idea applies when speaking of other quantities like several. This term has various interpretations, sometimes meaning more than a couple and sometimes telling less than many. Several’s exact meanings depend on context and can differ significantly among individuals.

Some, any, much, many, few, and petite are all quantifiers used before nouns to indicate the number of something present. Some and any serve as general determiners; many, few, and minor refer specifically to small amounts; for larger quantities, use scant, minimal, modest, sparse petite, or trivial instead.

Sense 3: A small number of people

Few is an ambiguous word, and its definition varies with each individual. Some might believe “few” refers to two or more individuals, while for others, it means three or more; it all depends on context, scale, and expectations – for instance, if discussing an audience of 100,000 people using terms like “few dozen” or “a few hundred” would probably suffice in this instance.

Norma H. Flaskerud is trying to determine whether few and several are the same thing, which is difficult as they’re both relative terms. “Several” refers to more than one individual; its range can range between two and many; few refers to any number that falls less than many or most.

Few is used to refer to a small quantity of objects or people. When someone says, for instance, “There are few people at the party,” they typically mean there are more than two but less than many guests present; couple generally refers to an exact count, while few is an old word that has never been used to denote specific figures; therefore it usually works best when used alongside words that define its quantity being described.

Sense 5: A small amount of time

When referring to small amounts of time, “few” is typically not an independent number but is usually related to another number, such as a couple or several. For instance, when someone states they need only “a few minutes” to prepare themselves, it should be understood that they mean minutes in an hour, not how many remain.

Other words such as moment and instant also refer to small amounts of time; however, minute is likely the most accurate because it denotes such a short duration: I’ll be there in one minute!