Little vs a little


«Little» and «a little» have different meanings and uses.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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….”