Difference between 'Little' and 'A Little' | Little vs A Little

‘Do you want a little sugar in your tea?’ Or ‘Do you want little sugar in your tea?’ Which one do you think is the correct way to say the sentence? Both seem correct, don’t they? Some students might argue that both of these sentences are correct. How do we avoid all this confusion and use the terms correctly in sentences? Though the English Language might seem confusing, if you understand the meanings of the words that you are using, it will turn out to be easy for you. This article will discuss whether the terms ‘little’ and ‘a little’ are different or not. Let’s go through the following points to understand.

Table Summarising the Difference between ‘Little’ and ‘A Little’

A Little
Meaning The word ‘little’ means a bit of or hardly any amount. The term ‘a little’ means some or a small quantity.
Usage It is used as an adjective, adverb and pronoun. It is used as an adverb.
Example We have little time left to finish the task. There’s a little chance that the boy will win.

Many might still think after going through this table that ‘little’ and ‘a little’ have the same meanings, but that’s not true! A detailed explanation is given below for you to have a better understanding on this topics that will you to understand when and how you can use these words.

The Difference between ‘Little’ and ‘A Little’ – Meanings

The simple difference between the terms ‘little’ and ‘a little’ is that the former has a negative tone to it, and the latter has a positive tone to it. When ‘little’ is used, it means hardly any or in minute measurements, for example, ‘There is little hope that the patient will survive.’ Here, ‘little’ means that there’s hardly any hope that the patient will survive. Now, if one uses ‘a little’ in a sentence, it means some or a small quantity. So, if we use ‘a little’ in the same example, i.e., ‘There is a little hope that the patient will survive’ then, it means there’s some chance or a small chance that the patient might survive. The following examples will help students understand much more clearly.

Examples of ‘Little’ and ‘A Little’

The examples below will be beneficial for students in understanding the terms ‘little’ and ‘a little’:

Little -i) Little is known about Alice’s childhood. (Pronoun)

ii) On their way back from school, the children spoke very little. (Adverb)

iii) The young boy was quite little when his grandmother passed away. (Adjective)

A Little – There is a little chance that it might rain today. (Adverb)

‘Little’ and ‘A Little’ – Conclusion

This article on how ‘little’ and ‘a little’ are different from each another helps students understand the difference between them. Apart from this, BYJU’S also offers various articles on many such ‘Differences Between Two Words’ that students often get confused with.



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