I know 'a little' can be used as an adverb to modify an adjective as in the sentence:

I am a little hungry.

However, can I also use 'a little' just like this in this sentence as well?

I am hungry a little.

  • 3
    I am hungry a little is not idiomatic even though it wouldn't have a problem getting the meaning across. Contrast "I am very hungry" with "I am hungry very". – user140086 Feb 25 '16 at 7:34

In general, adjective-modifiers in English must come before the adjective if they are lexical units. These include:

very, really, quite, somewhat, slightly, a little/bit, not [at all]

If they are prepositional phrases and are used to modify the adjective (and not the verb), then they usually come after the adjective, such as in:

helpful around the house

confident in/about himself

resolute to/until the end

known among/between us

However, note that adverbs that can modify the entire sentence can often be placed before or after the sentence, or next to the main verb:

Often the school children can be found playing soccer.

The school children often can be found playing soccer.

The school children can often be found playing soccer.

The school children can be found playing soccer often.

The last variant is less preferred if the adverb would be too far from the main verb.

  • If you include prepositional phrases amongst 'adjective-modifiers', your first sentence needs adjusting: 'Friendly and helpful to the nth degree' / 'polite to a fault' .... Though some use the term for the words (usually intercategorial polysemes of adverbs) that modify adjectives, believing that this usage is far removed from verb-modification. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 23 '16 at 6:48
  • @EdwinAshworth: Well those that you mention (and also "to an extreme" and "useful up to a point" and "accurate down to the last letter") could be considered as idiomatic forms rather than ordinary adjective modification, in the sense that "A to a fault" is an idiom that functions as an adjective that must be in predicate position. Personally I consider them as being 'cut from the same cloth' as prepositional phrases in general, which all cannot in general occur in other positions (apparent exceptions like "is in a way useless" in my opinion have "in a way" modifying the verb "is" instead). – user21820 Jul 23 '16 at 7:20
  • Not unhappy with your alternative analysis until you suggest that be can be 'modified'. Compare '... is useless with regard to preparing for the actual BMAT' where it is obviously not just 'is' that is being qualified. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 28 '16 at 18:03
  • @EdwinAshworth: Your example actually supports my point. I only said that prepositional phrases in general must come after what they modify, and that "is in a way useless" in my opinion should not be parsed as "is { ( in a way ) useless }" but as "{ is ( in a way ) } useless". What I said also implies that your example should be parsed "is { useless ( with regard to ... ) }". A counter-example to my claim would be an unambiguous example of a prepositional phrase before what it modifies. I won't be surprised if there are (this is natural language after all), but I think they're rare. – user21820 Jul 29 '16 at 1:45
  • @EdwinAshworth: Okay just after posting my comment I realized unusual word order can produce counter-examples: "To the end we will go/stand." But at least it's a systematic alternate syntax. – user21820 Jul 29 '16 at 1:48

You can but with a small modification. The meaning would be the same.

I am hungry, a little. Or

I am hungry. A little.

In speech, you need the pause to make it sound idiomatic. Otherwise, as mentioned in the comments, it'd be a bit unidiomatic.

  • 1
    I can't find any convincing examples of the comma version on the internet, and consider this also to be very unusual to weird. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 23 '16 at 6:40

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