There are lots of previous questions about "few", but I couldn't find any that addressed this aspect of its usage.

What is the grammatical rule that makes the sentence

"This will take a few of days"

incorrect? (There shouldn't be an 'of' there.)

Does the same rule cover

  • "Take a few of the sandwiches"
  • "Take a few sandwiches"

or are there different parts of speech in play?

  • Try English Language Learners, whether or not you are a native speaker, if you need to be told a rule.
    – David
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 18:15

3 Answers 3


I believe "[verb] a few [plural noun]" is a verbal phrase.

It's use will not permit modification of the noun without sounding wrong. Take a few bites. Have a few beers. Watch a few movies. Here few is referring to some or a sampling of. You could make it sound wrong on purpose by welcoming a friend with the non-generous offer "Here, have a few beer!"

You can modify the plural noun by referring to the members as a collection. Not "Take a few of sandwiches" but "Take a few of these sandwiches" or "Take a few of the sandwiches I brought"

You will see the use of a few used differently as in "A few of these will be perfect", "A few of the guys would enjoy lunch." or "A few of the shoes need replacement." Here A few is safely away from the verb phrase. Being used to seeing of here makes one wonder why it's missing in the other.


A few OF = a substantive adjective, which is an adjective that functions as a noun in the sentence. It typically acts as the subject or object of the sentence, but still has a corresponding noun which it modifies (a few of [the people]). It’s easiest to identify it when the quantity (A FEW) is used either to differentiate the noun as the subject of a sentence from a larger, containing noun as a separate subset of that larger noun grouping—which is typically a collective proper noun that has been used as the subject of a previous sentence (“the boys had to play sports at this school. a few of the boys played hockey”)—or in the same differentiation process for the direct object (“The school asked us to invite their employees. We invited a few of their teachers”).

A FEW = an adjective. this is a quantitative description of an item—it’s an adjective referring to a noun (not AS a noun). For example: “I will buy a few eggs”; “The event lasts for a few days”

  • To clarify—context & emphasis! the sandwich example involves two separate constructions. The first version, in which case the quantity is not the important part, emphasizes the act of taking. You could say “take a sandwich” and it wouldn’t change which word serves as subject, object, and verb. In the second version, the emphasis is on taking a certain quantity of sandwiches. the person should take a specific quantity, since they are already assumed to be taking them.
    – Liza
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 23:09

In this context, of indicates that you are talking about a small number of items from a larger group, in the same way as you would talk about

The best of Rihanna - (title of Rihanna's greatest hits album)

Rihanna has recorded a large number of songs: this album contains some songs from that group.

Looking at your sentences:

Take a few of the sandwiches

You could use this if there is a particular group of sandwiches available, and you are inviting the person to take some of them. You could not use it when suggesting that somebody picks up some sandwiches from a shop on the way to where they are going.

Take a few sandwiches

Here, there is no indication that there is a certain number of sandwiches available. You could still be talking implicitly about a particular group of sandwiches, so you could use it both situations.

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