Do you have a little time or little time to study English?
Have you ever noticed that while people usually say a little, sometimes people say little? And does it make any difference in meaning? The answer is, yes! This is a topic that can be very difficult for English learners at all levels. Here is an explanation about the difference:
A little This is probably the phrase that is needed about 95 percent of the time. This simply means: a small amount. This phrase can only be used to describe non-count nouns (money, time, information, water, etc.) For example, if you say, “I have a little money,” you are expressing the idea that you have some money that you can use (but maybe not a lot).
Little The definition may be similar: it expresses that it is a small amount of something. However, the difference is in the emphasis on and the feeling about that small amount. For example, if you say, “I have little money,” you are emphasizing the fact that you have only a very small amount of money (and probably means that you won’t be able to afford something.)
Here are a few more examples:
I have a little space left in my suitcase. (I can probably fit a few more things in.)
I have little space left in my suitcase. (It will be difficult to fit anything else in.)
I did a little work on my blog yesterday. (I spent some time, but maybe not much.)
I did little work on my blog yesterday. (I hardly did anything; I should have done more.)
I have a little time to study English. (I can spend some time studying.)
I have little time to study English. (I am so busy that it is difficult to find time to do it.)
Sometimes the difference between a little and little becomes very important to the meaning. There was recently a story that had made international news and caused public anger because of the unethical and illegal actions of an employee of a business. Here is a sentence that I recently heard in response to a question about whether the owner felt the publicity would cause them to lose clients:
There’s little doubt that our clients are going to support us.
Here, the owner is stating that he has strong faith that the clients will support them.
If he had said there was a little doubt, it would mean that he was worried about his business because he is not sure of the support they will receive.