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Hassan spent ages cooking it.
OK OK. I'm goimg to eat ___ just to be polite.

Is that (a) a little or (b) a few?

Is there a rule to choose which word to use?

closed as off-topic by Helmar, Dan Bron, Edwin Ashworth, David, Roger Sinasohn Jul 8 '17 at 16:46

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    Depends on what's to be eaten. Exam questions are OT, though. – Kris Jul 8 '17 at 8:31
  • Welcome to ELU. See also English Language Learners Good Luck. – Kris Jul 8 '17 at 8:31
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    You would use "a few" countable items, but "a little" of an uncountable. – Hot Licks Jul 8 '17 at 11:45
  • Answered at “A few” vs. “few”. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 8 '17 at 13:55
  • @EdwinAshworth Which of the answers there answer this question? – Araucaria Jul 8 '17 at 15:32
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If the thing(s) being eaten are grammatically plural use a few, otherwise use a little:

I ate a little cake.

I ate a few cakes.

In the Original Poster's example, however, a little is being used in a fused Determiner-Head construction. It is being used as a Determiner without any following noun, in a similar way to how we use pronouns. The antecedent for a little is the word it from the first speaker's sentence:

A: Hassan spent ages cooking it.

B: OK, OK. I'll eat a little, just to be polite.

Notice that if speaker A had said them instead of it, then speaker B would most likely have said a few:

A: Hassan spent ages cooking them.

B: OK, OK. I'll eat a few, just to be polite.

  • Any feedback on the driveby downvote? I can't improve my post without it .... – Araucaria Jul 8 '17 at 19:09
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    Sorry; I had to rush off to a celebratory meal. // 'If the thing(s) being eaten are grammatically plural use a few, otherwise use a little' leads to 'I had a little hot dog'. Etic, formal and concord-dictating singularity / plurality need distinguishing. But, using the usual analysis, 'a little' (quantifier sense) is used with non-count usages and 'a few' with count usages, as the answer I linked to observed. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 8 '17 at 22:03
  • @EdwinAshworth "I had a little hot dog" is perfectly grammatical, though, even if a bit ambiguous. It's perfectly apt if you only had a little of someone else's hotdog (see what I did there- and notice the complete singularity of the given hotdog). The linked to answer may mention countability, but involves no explanation - which isn't surprising, because it wasn't aiming to answer this question! Thanks for the feedback though. – Araucaria Jul 9 '17 at 11:17
  • Typical case. This is essentially an opinion and 'comments' is the place for it. There's a need for a canonical basis to be shown. Not down voting just yet. Cf. Edwin Ashworth above. – Kris Jul 17 '17 at 7:32

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