Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"

When reaching 99% fluency, ‘a few’ and ‘a lot’ are staples for your language repertoire.

Listen in today to learn the difference and find out how Aubrey cooks her s’mores.

https://youtu.be/R-yeGLsR3E4

Review of ‘few’ and ‘a few’

Lindsay asks Aubrey how her summer is going.

Aubrey answers she has had a very busy summer.

She shares that she always thinks when her kids are done with school for the year that things will slow down for her.

However, this never happens and things seem to just get busier!

In today’s episode, Lindsay and Aubrey answer a question sent by an All Ears English listener.

Here is the question:

“Hi guys! I’ve been listening to All Ears English for about three years now. I have really learned a lot from you guys. I definitely don’t miss anything from the three shows. I love them! I love the way you teach us as non-native speakers. Your philosophy has become mine too, connection not perfection™ So, here’s the question. I’d like to ask the difference between ‘few’ and ‘a few’, ‘lot’ and ‘a lot’, and how we can use them. I want to thank you by name; Lindsay, Aubrey, Michelle, and Jessica. This again, from Zach Bitar.”

That’s such a sweet message and a good question.

Listening to all three podcasts will definitely be very helpful and Lindsay and Aubrey commend him for being a Super Listener of All Ears English.

You can check out a similar episode to today’s topic AEE 1785: The Truth Behind Confusing Words.

In that episode, Aubrey talks about the difference between ‘a couple’, ‘a few’, and ‘several’.

Another episode is AEE 1380: Grammar Part 6: A Few Tips to Add a Little Polish to Your Job Interviews in English.

In this one, you will learn the difference between ‘a few’ and ‘few.’

As a quick review, ‘a few’ typically means you are referring to three to five items.

If it’s lower than three, you can use ‘a couple.’

‘Few’ without the article ‘a’ means not very many and it is less than you would expect.

‘A Lot’ and ‘alot’

There is a common mistake many English learners and native speakers make.

This is when the words ‘a lot’ is written as one word: ‘alot.’

This does not exist.

You must always separate these into two words.

#1: ‘A lot‘ as a pronoun

This is used in two ways.

The first is as a pronoun.

It means you are talking about something that is a large number or a big amount.

Example:

  • A lot of teams play on Saturdays.
  • There are a lot of well-known actors in the movies

If you use ‘many’ instead of ‘a lot’ it feels more formal.

#2: ‘A lot’ as an adverb

As an adverb, ‘a lot’ means a great deal or much.

Example:

  • She played tennis a lot this year.
  • I liked that movie a lot.

#3: The verb ‘Allot

This is the second way to use ‘allot’ as a verb.

It means to give a portion of something to someone.

Example:

  • Equal time was allotted to each speaker at the conference.

This is more formal.

This can be interchanged with the word ‘given.’

Use ‘allot’ for more formal settings.

You have to be careful using this as it sounds the same as ‘a lot.’

Roleplay

Lindsay and Aubrey share a roleplay using the words ‘a lot,’ ‘allot,’ and ‘lot.’

This will help you to get a clearer understanding of how to use them in a conversation.

In this scenario, Lindsay and Aubrey are making s’mores at a campout.

Aubrey: I thought I brought a few bags of marshmallows but I can’t find them.
Lindsay: Well here’s one, it’s open but it has a lot left.
Aubrey: Great! I have a lot of chocolate bars too.
Lindsay: And I brought graham crackers. It’s not a lot but it should be enough.

How do you eat your s’mores?

Aubrey uses Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups instead of Hershey’s chocolates on her s’mores.

Lindsay is shocked by this!

She loves peanut butter but thinks Hershey’s should be used on s’mores.

Aubrey suggests she try it!

In the roleplay, Aubrey uses ‘a few’ at the start of the conversation to establish the amount of what she brought.

Then Lindsay contrasts ‘a lot’ with ‘not enough.’

She does this to set the expectation that she didn’t have a large amount of graham crackers.

Takeaway

When you are learning the English language, it can be confusing.

Even native English speakers make mistakes like this one.

You want to be clear, especially when you use quantity words.

Don’t risk breaking the connection by making errors with staple words like these.

Keep practicing and spend time bringing your English to a higher level.

What other quantity words do you find confusing?

Share it in the comments below and maybe we can make another episode about it.

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