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Which is correct?

A few hundred people ...
A few hundreds of people ...

Does it make any sense without an article or A is necessary?

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  • A few is used to express a count or estimate of items:

    I saw a few people.
    I saw a few dozen people ... which may also be expressed, rather old-fashionedly, as a few dozens of people
    I saw a few hundred people ... or a few hundreds of people —again, an old-fashioned use

  • Bare few is used as either an adjective/determiner or a pronoun to express a low proportion of items:

    Few people today believe the earth is flat.
    Few of those present were sober.

Consequently, bare few would not be be used with ‘dozens’ or ‘scores’ or ‘hundreds’ as a count or estimate. This would occur only if these terms had, in context, the special sense of groups of twelve or twenty or one hundred items.

In Anglo-Saxon England, and for many centuries after, the hundred—approximately, a territory supporting one hundred households—was a fundamental administrative division. By the middle of the 19th century few hundreds had any legal role.

5

Note that the usage has changed over time. My familiarity is with money, so I see in old references "10 millions of dollars", now I would find "10 million dollars". The first way is not grammatically incorrect, but it is so archaic that it would probably sound and feel wrong to many English users today.

  • 2
    You could also say "tens of millions of dollars", which is different from "ten million dollars". – godel9 Jan 5 '14 at 19:14
  • I think @godel9 has a knack for teaching! I find it useful to show this difference. – learner Jan 5 '14 at 19:41
  • The first is not an exact number that is in the tens range while the latter is i.e. exactly 10 millions no more no less. (I hope 10 millions is written as I did!) – learner Jan 5 '14 at 19:50
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    @learner: In my experience, exactly ten million is "ten million", not "ten millions". – K.A.Monica Jan 5 '14 at 23:21
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    @learner: Be careful; there are two definitions of billion, trillion and so on: <en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_and_short_scales> – K.A.Monica Jan 6 '14 at 16:26
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The reason you say "hundreds of people" but "a few hundred people" is that the word "hundred(s)" is serving a different function in each phrase.

a few hundred people

In this phrase, "people" is the noun, and "a few hundred" is a determinitive phrase modifying "people" (how many people?).

hundreds of people

In this phrase, "hundreds" is the noun, and "of people" is a prepositional phrase modifying "hundreds" (hundreds of what?).

The two phrases mean essentially the same thing: a group of people numbering somewhere between 200 and 1000. They're just constructed differently.

This difference is the reason you can't say "a few hundreds of people". Either "hundreds" is a noun, in which case you can't say "a few hundreds" in the same way you can't say "two hundreds", or it's part of a determinitive phrase, in which case it should be "a few hundred", not "a few hundreds".

0

It's "a few hundred people". You could also say, "hundreds of people attended the show", or whatever. But not "a few hundreds". I am not aware of the reason for this.

Similarly, "it would take a few thousand dollars to repair the house" or "he spent thousands of dollars on repairs to his house."

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