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Re: Few vs. a few

From:ROGER MILLS <rfmilly@...>
Date:Friday, November 2, 2007, 16:22
I've been meaning to add this bit of trivia.... Somewhere years ago I saw a
(semi-serious) definition:
"a few are eight" :-))))

Edgard Bikelis wrote:
>Well, once a romanian friend corrected me, saying that "a few" means >something like "not few ~ many"
Not in English, where "a few" means "a small but indefinite number" (eight?). But it's also relative: "a smaller number than expected".
>and "few" means just "few".
Either "a very small number" OR "a much smaller number than expected"-- in this last sense I'd say it's near-synonymous with "only/just a few"--
>But see: >Quite a few cats are flying over my house ~ many cats.
Yes, or at least, "many more than expected"
>Quite few cats &c &c ~ few cats.
IMO use of "quite" here is a little odd-- "very few" more common, and yes, it means "a (very) small number" Come to think of it, they're both rather relative :-(( If you're expecting 10,000 to attend a protest rally and only 100 show up, that's "(very) few"; if 300-500 show up, that could be "few ~only a few"; OTOH if 500-2000 come, that might be "a few". Either quantity might be described as "disappointingly few". "Quite a few" could probably be almost any number, perhaps a bit more than 5000 (but nowhere near the expected 10,000).....
> > > > > Or in any natlang you may know. I wonder of "Poca gente asistieron en > > la reunion" conveys both meanings. > >Is "poca gente asistieron" grammatical? It screams "wrooong!" to my >portuguese ears: "pouca gente assistiu". >
Shame on me, I missed that.............