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Recently, at work, I had an argument with a colleague on the use of article 'a' in the sentence: "Active i is just 'a' little more than a smaller and cheaper Activa."

In the sentence, he meant that 'Activa i is nothing but a smaller and cheaper version of Activa'. He insists that adding 'just a' to the original sentence has changed the meaning.

I disagree: To me none of the two sentences convey the intended meaning.

Please help me sort out the confusion.

  • So this is really about adding "just a", not about adding "a". The title is misleading. – RegDwigнt Sep 24 '13 at 13:00
  • yeah.. but the key problem is how adding 'a' is changing the meaning... I had no confusion regarding the function of 'just' in the sentence. Thanks for give the post a look though. – user52023 Sep 24 '13 at 14:48
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Adding 'a' does make a difference.

Consider the following sentences:

I've got a little money.
I've got little money.

The first one means that you have a fair amount of money. Not much, but not very little either. However, removing the 'a' makes it the second sentence, which means that you have a less amount of money.

a little: a fair amount. Not much, but just enough.
little: almost none.

Similarly:
a few: a fair amount.
few: almost none.


"Activa i is just a little more than a smaller and cheaper Activa."

In this sentence, a little means 'a fair amount'. So it means that Activa i is a bit better than a 'smaller and cheaper Activa'.

However if you remove the 'a', you would get:

"Activa i is just little more than a smaller and cheaper Activa."

Which means that it is hardly better than 'a smaller and cheaper Activa'.


Both 'few' and 'little' on their own, are used in negative connotations. It gives a slight negative sound to the sentence.

And you are right; none of the sentences convey the intended meaning.

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One would not typically say "(just) a little more than a smaller and cheaper..." - it should be "(just) a smaller and cheaper...". Note that "just" here diminishes its quality, much like "little more than a...", whereas, "a smaller and cheaper" is a neutral to slightly positive fact that it is smaller and cheaper.

So: It is little more than a smaller and cheaper... = negative

It is just a smaller and cheaper... = slightly negative

or

It is a smaller and cheaper... = neutral/positive

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