A few - few

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One of the oddities of English usage is that the expressions few and a few have rather different meanings. Of the two, a few denotes a greater number than few. This is true whether the words are being used as adjectives or prepositions.

  • The expression a few means 'a number - some - which is clearly greater than none (though it is not very much)'.
  • Few on its own (with no article) is usually an adjective. It means 'some', or 'a number that is very small, perhaps zero'.
The noun phrase The Few is used in Britain to mean the pilots who flew in the Battle of Britain in 1940, ending the German Air Force's blitz on the British Isles.