a few

[a few] {n.} or {adj.} A small number (of people or things); some.

The dry weather killed most of Mother's flowers, but a few are left.

In the store, Mary saw many pretty rings and bracelets, and she wanted to buy a few of them.

After the party, we thought that no one would help clean up, but a few couples did.

Alice wanted to read a few pages more before she stopped.

- Usually "a few" is different in meaning from "few", which emphasizes the negative; "a few" means "some", but "few" means "not many".

We thought no one would come to lunch, but a few came.

We thought many people would come to lunch, but few came.

But sometimes "a few" is used with "only", and then it is negative.

We thought many people would come to lunch, but only a few came.

- Sometimes used like an adverb.

Three students have no seats; we need a few more chairs.

If we can set up chairs faster than people come and sit in them, we will soon be a few ahead.

- Sometimes used with "very" for emphasis.

Uncle Ralph gave away almost all of his sea shells, but he still had a very few left.

Compare: A LITTLE. Contrast: A LOT, QUITE A FEW.