Yesterday, I was asked whether I'd write the following sentence: 'I am now going to analyze a few dialogues ....' in formal (academic) English.
After I replied that I would, my friend went on saying: "Why wouldn't you write 'I am now going to analyze some dialogues...'?"
I told him that it was grammatically fine, too, and that I would have made my choice depending on the meaning I wanted to convey. I told him that, according to what I have been taught, few carries a negative meaning (not enough), a few a positive one (more than enough) and some is neutral.
My friend agreed with me on the difference between few and a few, but he said that I was being too picky about some.
Since I trust my friend's feeling and knowledge of English more than mine, I thought I'd better ask native speakers whether this difference between some and a few (or, by the same token, between some and few) really exists or it is one of those things taught in ESL classes but not applied in the "real world."
I've never had problems with that, because I take them the same way as in Italian.
few = pochi
a few = un po' di
some = alcuni, un po' di, dei...
I don't see any significant difference between "some" and "a few", and I wouldn't say either of them imply "more than enough", not necessarily, at least.
That's how I use them.
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Generally speaking, I see 'some' as a neutral term and 'a few' as a term with more 'feeling', suggesting 'a small number, not a lot'.
To everybody else who might be interested: here are two other useful contributions to the topic.
1. Swann's comment (Practical English Usage, § 329.3):
SwannWithout a, little and few usually have rather negative meanings. They may suggest 'not as much/many as one would like', not as much/many as expected', and similar ideas ... A little and a few are more positive: their meaning is generally closer to some. They may suggest ideas like 'better than nothing' or 'more than expected'.2. this thread about few/a few/ some (see Yankee's and CJ's posts).
"no one reported that"
"some people reported that"
"a few people reported that"
"many people reported that"
Which one is 'greater', "some" or "a few"?
The first refers to non-defined amount of something
The second refers to a small amount of something and we are expecting to be more of it !!
I hope it is a useful piece of infomation.
People are waiting to help.
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