a little

[a little] {n.} or {adj.} A small amount (of); some.

- Usually "a little" is different in meaning from "little", which emphasizes the negative; "a little" means "some"; but "little" means "not much". We say

"We thought that the paper was all gone, but a little was left."

But we say,

"We thought we still had a bag of flour, but little was left."

Also, we say,

"Bob was sick yesterday, but he is a little better today."

But we say,

"Bob was sick yesterday, and he is little better today."

Sometimes "a little" is used with "only", and then it is negative.

We thought we had a whole bag of flour, but only a little was left.

We have used most of the sugar; but a little is left.

We did not eat all the cake; we saved a little of it for you.

I'm tired; I need a little time to rest.

Where is the paper? I need a little more.

- Often used like an adverb.

Usually the teacher just watched the dancing class, but sometimes she danced a little to show them how.

The children wanted to play a little longer.

- Sometimes used with "very" for emphasis.

The sick girl could not eat anything, but she could drink a very little tea.

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