Can we say "the soup is little salty", meaning that the soup is not salty enough?
No, we cannot because the adjective salty already means: tasting of, containing, or preserved with salt. Moreover, "little" and "bit" are normally used with the indefinite article with adjectives, their function is to "soften" a statement; e.g. a little hot, a bit spicy, and a little bit strong. Without the article, little, few, and bit, carry a more negative meaning; e.g. I have little money (I don't have much money) vs. I have a little money (I have 'some' money).
If I say a drink, or a snack is sugary, I am stating that it contains enough sugar for it to be noticeable.
A bit sugary suggests that I consider it to be on the sweet side.
Colloquially, native speakers also say something is "a little bit sweet".
Too much sugar means it is too sweet for my taste buds, some might describe it as sickly-sweet; therefore, the expressions a little sugary means something is on the sweet side, and overly sweet. Similarly, a little salty means it contains enough amount of excessive salt for it to be "spoilt".
"A little salty" could also be a gross understatement, or used in polite company. In thie former case, the speaker could be implying that the food is almost inedible, but only context will tell us for sure what the real situation is.
To suggest that food is lacking in salt, we can say it in several ways, using the NOUN salt
- This needs more salt
- The salt is missing
- There is not enough salt
- There is too little salt
- There is little salt
What do we call "a bit", "a little bit", etc? The British Council website tells us that they are known as mitigators, others say: hedging, or approximators.
Mitigators are the opposite of intensifiers ...
We use these words and phrases as mitigators:
a bit - just a bit - a little - a little bit - just a little bit - rather - slightly
- Could you please tell me the difference between
a little, a little bit and a bit with related examples?
- Articles, Determiners, and Quantifiers
- Little, a little, few, a few
- Hedge Words
- Hedging and Discourse
- SOFTENING CRITICISM: THE USE OF LEXICAL HEDGES
IN ACADEMIC SPOKEN INTERACTION pp 50,57,58