Difference between Few, a Few and The Few

What is the Difference between Few, a Few and The Few

Few, a few and the few – at first glance, these words seem like they have the same meaning. However, these words do have differences, even if they are subtle.

Table of Contents

The word ‘few’ is used as a quantifier, i.e., a word that is typically used to express the quantity of an object. In this case, ‘few’ emphasizes a small number of things. When the article ‘a’ is added, the meaning changes to ‘some.’ When the article ‘the’ precedes ‘few’, then the meaning changes to ‘not many’. In this article, we shall explore more differences between few, a few and the few.

Table Summarising the Difference between Few, a Few and The Few:


A Few

The Few


Small number of something


Not many

Example 1

Smoking is just one of his few bad habits.

I’ve got a few questions to ask.

She wants to spend the few days left to her in solitude.

Example 2

Few people have seen this trail.

I have a few places in mind.

The few words that she spoke are deeply ingrained in my head.

The Meaning of Few, a Few and The Few

As summarised in the table above, these words have different meanings:

  • Few – ‘Few’ refers to a small number of ‘something.’ It can be used either as an adjective, a noun or a pronoun.
  • A few – ‘A few’ means ‘some.’
  • The few – This implies ‘not many.’

Examples for Few, a Few and The Few:

Take a look at the following examples:

  • Few – I have few friends. (It implies that I don’t have a lot of friends and I am probably lonely. Also note, it may also exhibit a negative sentiment or meaning in some cases.)
  • A few – I have a few friends. (It implies I have some friends)
  • The fewThe few public parks that we have are not well maintained.

Few, a Few and The Few – Conclusion

English grammar is important for people who want to communicate and write a clear, concise message. Moreover, English grammar is also important for students because it teaches them essential language skills that they need to succeed in school, as well as in their career. In this article, we learnt the difference between ‘few,’ ‘a few’ and ‘the few’. To explore other important concepts in grammar, or more English differences between articles, register at BYJU’S English.

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