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How come we use the article before quantifies like "few" sometimes and not others? And why do we even have to have "a" before it if the noun it describes is singular? For example, the sentence "There are a few people here today" vs. "There are people here today."

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anonymousHow come we use the article before quantifies like "few" sometimes and not others?

The usage depends on the intended meaning. A few means the same as some, and has a positive ring to it:

He bought a few / some books.

Few means the same as very few, and sounds rather negative:

He has [very] few friends. (= He has hardly any friends.)

anonymousAnd why do we even have to have "a" before it if the noun it describes is singular?

Few and a few can only be used with a plural noun. People is an irregular plural in your example. Not all plural nouns end in an s.

CB

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a few ~ a small number of
few ~ not many

A few people attended the reception. (optimistic view)
Few people attended the reception. (pessimistic view)

CJ

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anonymous "There are a few people here today" vs. "There are people here today."

These are idiomatic expressions. Read about them here:

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/quantifiers/little-a-little-few-a-few

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Thank you. But I am also trying to understand why the indefinite article is used. It doesn't make much sense to me when the plural item is used.

 AlpheccaStars's reply was promoted to an answer.

I guess I just have a hard time wrapping my head around this one because of the indefinite article in between plural markers, "are" and plural "people".

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anonymousbecause of the indefinite article in between plural markers,

It is because of the quantifier, few. Quantifiers are used with both count and non-count nouns.

https://www.myenglishpages.com/site_php_files/grammar-lesson-quantifiers.php

There are a dozen eggs in the cart.
There are a few eggs in the cart.
There are a lot of eggs in the cart.
There are a lot of people in the stadium.

It almost seems like there is a distinction between quantifiers and quantifying pronouns (?), if that is such a thing. For example, the indefinite article seem to be able to be used when the preposition of could be used. "... a lot of" "a few of" etc.