I have found in WordReference English-Greek Dictionary that the phrase 'tiny bit' is an adverb and a noun. That dictionary gives the following examples:

1. This version is just that tiny bit better than the first, but you still need to revise it.
2. I was a tiny bit sad to say goodbye to my friends, but excited about the adventure I was embarking upon.
3. There's a tiny bit of milk left in the bottle.
4. That tiny bit of cake will never satisfy Tania's appetite.

In the first and the second examples the phrase 'tiny bit' is an adverb and in the third and the fourth examples the phrase 'tiny bit' is a noun.

I know from school that 'tiny bit' means 'a little bit'. I have found in Longman Dictionary that the phrase 'a little bit' is an idiom.

Can I say that the phrase 'tiny bit' is an idiom? WordReference English-Greek Dictionary says that the phrase 'tiny bit' is an adverb and a noun. Is that correct? Is the phrase 'tiny bit' an idiom or an adverb and a noun?

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    Welcome to Writing.SE! Unfortunately, this question is better suited to our sister site English.SE, so I'm voting to migrate it there instead. I'm also going to fix up your formatting a bit because there's no reason for this whole question to be in a quote block. – F1Krazy Nov 23 '19 at 12:37
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    Looking at your profile, I suspect that you may be question-banned from English Learners.SE and chose to ask this here instead. Please don't do that. – F1Krazy Nov 23 '19 at 12:40
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    "Tiny bit" is an idiom consisting of an adjective and a noun. Like many noun phrases, it can be used as an adjective or adverb in some cases. Note that being an idiom does not prevent a word or phrase from being a regular "part of speech". – Hot Licks Nov 23 '19 at 22:08
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    An idiom is an expression that has a meaning unique to it that cannot be specifically derived from the combination of its individual words. While I don't personally sense anything special about tiny bit that can't be determined from putting tiny in front of bit, I do note that a little bit is considered an idiom. If I look at the example sentences, I can replace a little bit with a tiny bit in each, and have it mean the same thing. So, it appears it is an idiom. – Jason Bassford Nov 24 '19 at 4:38
  • @JasonBassfordSupportsMonica - "Idiom" is a vaguely-defined term. In one sense it simply means "idiomatic", ie, commonly used in normal speech. At the other extreme it implies a construction whose meaning is completely separated from the meanings of the individual words. In the middle is a whole range of possibilities where the expression, to a greater or lesser degree, carries implications that "flavor" it's literal meaning. – Hot Licks Nov 27 '19 at 13:24

Yes, there are different usages here.

'... a tiny bit sad ...' and 'that tiny bit better' (compare 'somewhat') show adjective-premodification (here, downtoning: contrast intensifying, with 'very/extremely'; 'much'), and are still labelled in this role as (compound, ie multi-word) 'adverbs' by some traditionalists. I'd go with the 'splitting rather than lumping' analysis explained by Hurford James R in 'Grammar: A Student's Guide' (p9) here:

Some words, such as very, quite, rather, and somewhat, which modify adjectives and adverbs, are sometimes [themselves also] called adverbs, but that is not a very good name for these, because all sorts of other words are also called adverbs, and the term begins to get vague and unspecific. (Actually, linguists use the term[] ... degree modifier [secondary modifier; intensifier / downtoner] for very, quite, rather, and somewhat [and awfully, alarmingly, incredibly, seriously ... when used to modify adjectives/adverbs].

The term 'degree modifier' is well known, but 'secondary modifier (of adjective, etc)' is more fitting for the whole class, as 'alarmingly', 'strappingly', 'calculatedly ... carry semantic weight far beyond the mere intensification / downtoning words live 'very', 'slightly' carry.

'Slightly sad' / 'a bit sad' show downtoner usage; 'a tiny bit sad' shows a mitigated downtoner (second order, with the downtoner itself being downtoned!) usage.

On an even keel, a tiny bit sad, a bit sad, rather sad, sad, very sad, worryingly sad, extremely sad....


'[A] tiny bit of' is a [compound] [intensified; the archetypal compound quantifier is 'a bit of'. Note that here, 'tiny' reinforces 'bit' (downwards!), rather than mitigating an adjective as in 'a tiny bit better'] quantifier.

As explained in an article on Grammar put out by the British Council:

Quantifiers with uncount nouns

Some quantifiers can be used only with uncount nouns:

(not) much // a bit of // a little

Would you like a little wine?

Could I have a bit of butter, please?


I've avoided the word 'idiom', as premodification of adjectives is totally standard grammar, however it is analysed. No words are used with unusual senses either (as @Jason Bassford et al points out), so 'idiom' is not applicable (and I'd use 'compound premodifier' and 'compound quantifier' rather than 'fixed expression' here myself). But I understand why you're asking about the wisdom of treating say 'a bit of' as a single lexeme. Analysis into say [indefinite article] + [noun] + [preposition] doesn't get us very far, when 'a little' and 'a bit of' are largely interchangeable.

  • In certain respects,, a bit of works like a lot of does for uncountable nouns like butter -- only in exactly the opposite sense. – tchrist Nov 28 '19 at 2:52

First, tiny not an adverb and noun but an adjective and noun. Second, it's poor usage because it's redundant. Tiny is already included in the meaning of bit. There's no example you give that needs tiny. However, in song, verse or lyrical prose, "little bit" or "tiny bit" may help with the meter. A little love, a bit of love, a little bit of love have their lyrical uses.

  • The question is not about the words within the phrase tiny bit but about the role of the phrase, as a whole, in the sentence. – Anton Sherwood Nov 25 '19 at 23:33
  • You are correct in that "tiny" is an adjective, not an adverb. However, the fact that "tiny bit" is, to a degree, redundant does not make it "poor usage". English thrives on redundancies. – Hot Licks Nov 27 '19 at 13:28
  • I don't think English "thrives" on redundancies, it thrives on conciseness. Redundancy is wordiness, the bane of the current, fatuous discourse. But as I said, redundancy has its place: "The most unkindest cut of all" is necessary for pentameter–"help with the meter". – JMR Nov 28 '19 at 1:47

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