Are these sentences have the same meaning or the second one means that I not often use it?

I speak a little English.


I speak English a little.

3 Answers 3


Both are correct. But they don't mean the same.

['I speak a little English' is commonly used.]

'I speak a little English' means that I speak a small amount of English. 'A little' is an adjective. It modifies the noun 'English'.

'I speak English a little' does not mean that I speak a small amount of English. It means that I sometimes speak English. 'A little' which is an adverb modifies the verb 'speak'.


Strictly speaking, no - these don't mean the same.


  • While in Italy, I ate a little pasta
  • While in Italy, I ate pasta a little

"A little pasta" would normally mean a small quantity of pasta. This first example could mean a small amount was consumed at one meal. But the second option sounds like regular-sized portions were consumed infrequently. This isn't great English though - it would be better to use an adverb of frequency like sometimes. That said, even native speakers sometimes use "a little" or "a bit" to express frequency.

Likewise with your examples - the first is correct and means that the amount of English you can speak is limited. It refers to the size of your vocabulary, or the limits of your grammatical comprehension.

Your second example is probably said by non-native speakers, and would likely be understood by natives to mean the same - but it isn't strictly correct. The structure has more in common with a statement about the frequency with which you speak English. You can say it, but you will sound more like a non-native.

  • 1
    "I speak English a little" means that most of what I say isn't English.
    – Peter
    Mar 14, 2022 at 12:47
  • @Peter Sure, that's another take on it. Either way, its the frequency with which you speak it.
    – Astralbee
    Mar 14, 2022 at 12:58

Both are acceptable but the I speak a little English sounds better (to me!).

If you want to refer to how often you speak English then maybe I speak English occasionally ... although if you use 'occasionally' you probably speak English quite well :-).

  • Does it mean that my sentences have the same meaning?
    – Sergei
    Jan 9, 2021 at 23:27
  • @Sergey Yes, they have the same meaning and both will be understood. Aidan is indicating that one sounds better (is better constructed) than the other.
    – EllieK
    Nov 1, 2021 at 16:10

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