LITTLE vs. A LITTLE
«Little» and «a little» have different meanings and uses.
- When used with uncountable nouns, “little” means “less than normal.” «A little» is also used with uncountable nouns. It means «some, though not much.»
Jeremy is a very reliable worker. He needs little supervision.
Jeremy worked independently for his previous projects but his new assignment is more difficult. You need to give him a little supervision.
- If the noun is mentioned earlier, «little» and «a little» can be used alone.
New employees usually need a lot of guidance, but Aaron needs very little.
Gordon doesn’t need much praise, but he still needs a little. Don’t forget to let him know that he’s done a good job.
- With comparative adjectives, «little» means “not as much as one expected.” «A little» means «a bit more.»
He is disappointed. He paid a lot of money to buy a fast computer, but his new computer is little faster than his old one.
His new computer may not be much faster than his old one, but it is still a little faster.
Note: This discussion is limited to the differences in the uses of “little” and “a little” for uncountable/mass nouns and adjectives. When used with count nouns, they both simply mean “small” or “a small….”