Here are my guess:

  • I can speak English a little. (adverb)
  • I can speak a little English. (here “a little” can be adjective describing English or it can be adverb describing speak)
  • If there is a language there, 'a little' will describe how much can you speak in that language because if you want to describe how much you can speak, don't bother putting a language there.
    – holydragon
    Jul 16, 2018 at 8:27

1 Answer 1


I'd agree in the first case, little is used as an adverb.

In the second example,

I can speak a little English.

it's an adjective. Consider the following:

I can speak a little English and a little Xhosa.

Here it is made clear that each little is referring to each (proper) noun.

Of course, just to confuse the issue, little could even be a noun.

"Would you like some sherbet?"

"I'd like a little."

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