Main Difference – Little vs. A Little
Little and a little are two quantifiers that are used with uncountable nouns. The main difference between little and a little is, little refers to hardly any or not much whereas a little refers to some or small enough. This article will clarify this difference further by looking at these two quantifiers separately.
What Does ‘Little’ Mean
Little is the quantifier we always use with uncountable nouns. Uncountable noun refers to the things that are seen as a whole or mass because they cannot be separated. Some examples of uncountable nouns are water, thunder, sugar, information, advice, etc.
We use little when we have only a very small amount that is hardly enough. For example, imagine that your friend is suggesting a trip, but you don’t have enough money to cover the expenses of the trip. You can use the word ‘little’ in this instance.
“I’m sorry, but I have little money.”
“I have little money, so I can’t afford it.”
I had little bread and water, but I’m still hungry.”
“My parents insist that I apply for this cause, I have little choice.”
Fortunately, there was little crime in her area.
Little can be also used without a noun. This is more common in formal writing.
“Little is known about his childhood and education.”
In addition, we always add the indefinite article ‘a’ when ‘little is used before definite, indefinite and demonstrative articles (this, that etc.) personal pronouns (him, them etc.) and possessives (my, her etc.)
“He painted the scenery thinking that he could capture a little of the magic.”
“She sprinkled a little of the leftover onions and added some salt.”
Keep in mind that one of the most common usages of little is as an adjective. In this usage, it refers to the size of a thing.
What Does ‘A little’ Mean
We use ‘a little’ when we are talking about a small amount that is enough to do something. For example, imagine that your sister is asking for a loan. You only have a small amount of money, but it is enough.
“I have a little money; I can give it to you.”
“She drank some water and ate a little bread, her hunger vanished.”
“I save a little money every month.”
We can use ‘a little’ as a pronoun. Little can be also used as a substitute for a noun when it is apparent in the context.
“He told me a little about his life in France.”
A little can be also used as an adverb as well. Ex: “He smiled a little.” A little can be used before adverbs, adjectives and determiners.
“We found that a little bit hard to believe.”
“He is getting a little better.”
What is the Difference Between Little and A little
Type of Noun
Little is used with uncountable nouns.
A little is used with uncountable nouns.
Little means hardly any or not sufficient.
A little means a small amount or some.
Little can be used as an adjective.
A little can be used as an adverb.