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quite a few - phrase used with countable nouns

quite a few apples -> many apples

quite a little - phrase used with uncountable nouns

quite a little money -> much money

but what about

quite a little number of apples. -> what does this mean?

number is countable, so it violates the usage of "quite a little", but at the same time, I feel like it means quite little (very small) so -> a very small number of apples.

I can say "quite a small number of apples" and have confidence it means "very few apples," but because "quite a little" is a British English idiom, I am not sure which is the correct meaning.

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  • "quite a little number of apples" Where did you find this sentence? who used it? Can you link the source? In the mean time try having a look at this ell.stackexchange.com/questions/31717/….
    – Brad
    Jun 11, 2021 at 2:15
  • @Brad I made the phrase. It didn't sound overtly wrong, but at the same time I was having trouble determining if it was proper English, and if so, did it mean what I thought it meant.
    – Exec
    Jun 11, 2021 at 6:23

1 Answer 1

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quite a little number of apples. -> what does this mean?

As the source has not been quoted I would suggest that the sentence in this case is incorrect. Quite a little NUMBER being incorrect. This particular idiom has several variations (see below) If we had wished to use the word number. Then a different variation of the idiom would have been used, in fact the more commonly quoted variation, "quite a number".

We are not finished; quite a little is left to do.

There are quite a number of things involved in this question.

However with apples I would suggest not quite a little or even quite a number but

There are quite a lot of bad apples


quite a little

Idiom(s): quite a bit AND quite a few; quite a little; quite a lot; quite a number Ref Idioms

All of which mean "a considerable amount"


quite a little: in British English: a considerable amount

Ref Collins

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  • I'll accept that the phrase is simply an incorrect amalgamation of several idioms ("a number of", and "quite a little." Thanks for the second opinion.
    – Exec
    Jun 11, 2021 at 6:29
  • @Exec your welcome.
    – Brad
    Jun 11, 2021 at 6:31

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