This is something that I hear people getting mixed up quite often, so I decided to look into the rules for when to use little and when to use few.
Few is used with countable nouns.
These are things that can easily be counted such as books, coins or people.
Little is used with uncountable nouns.
These are things that cannot easily be counted such as sugar, money (not coins) or salt.
It is also worth remembering that little can also mean that something is not very big.
Let's look at some examples:
I have little coins in my purse. This tells us that the coins we have are small.
I have few coins in my purse. This tells us we don't have many coins.
I have little money in my purse. This tells us the person doesn't have much money.
I have little friends at school. This tells us the friends are small (not very tall).
I have few friends at school. This tells us the person doesn't have many friends.
As you have read the choice of little or few can change the meaning of what is said. Are the coins small or do you not have very many? Are your friends small or do you not have very many?
Little is also used for abstract ideas such as time, motivation or interest.
I have very little time to work on my project for school.
I have little motivation to go to the gym.
I have little interest in what you have to say!
Here are some sentences for you to try for yourself. Which ones are correct?
I have few time to go to the gym.
I have few pictures on my wall.
I have little plants in my garden.
I have little motivation to study.
I have few ideas for my school project.
I have little pens on my desk.
I have few opportunities to meet new people.