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I've been trying to find out the difference between 'few weeks' and ''a few weeks'. And here's a sentence written in my textbook.

A memorable incident happend during my first few weeks.

it is more like putting emphasis on how soon it happened.

A memorable incident happened during my first a few weeks.

But there's nothing emphasizing how soon the incident happened.

Am I right

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    I hope it's clear that my first a few weeks is totally ungrammatical. – user6951 Feb 28 '15 at 7:25
  • I got to know I was wrong to write that sentence due to the good answer. thank you. – jihoon Feb 28 '15 at 9:31
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In this case "my first" acts like a definitive article, clearly specifying a unique time frame. Using an additional indefinitive one would not work - a grammatical contradiction, you could say.

If you want to put more emphasis on the early time, you need to rewrite the sentence, e.g.:

A memorable incident happened during my very first few weeks. or
A memorable incident happened just during my first few weeks.
(Or rewrite entirely.)

  • I wouldn't use "just during". I would say "in" or "less than three weeks after I started". The incident did not last throughout the first few weeks, and we don't need to emphasize that it didn't happen again after that; but to say "just during" implies both of those. – Brian Hitchcock Mar 1 '15 at 2:48
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Generally speaking, terms like few hours and few weeks refer to approximate blocks of time. They are often preceded by the indefinite article:

We can have your car fixed in a few hours.
Emily has been working on her paper for a few days.
That new movie is coming out in a few days. I can't wait!

but other words can be used in place of the article; for example:

My first few weeks on the job were nervewracking.
It has been very cold here for the past few days.
He always seems to perform well in the last few minutes of a big game.

It is possible to use "few" without such qualifiers, but the meaning is not the same:

Few days in my life were as miserable as that one.

In that case, "few days" is not a contiguous block of time, but refers to a small number of specific days. Similarly:

Few winters have been as cold as this one.

likely refers to non-consecutive winters (such as, say, the winters of 1993, 1979, and 1899), whereas:

It has been cold for a few winters now.

limits the scope of the discussion to the recent past.

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Actually, there are instances where you can have the phrase "a few weeks" start a sentence or place it in the medial or final position of a sentence. For example, it is grammatically correct to say

"A few weeks ago, I received a cheque."

Or

"I received a cheque a few weeks ago"

or

"I saw him a few weeks ago and he walked past me".

The introduction of the article a means the phrase few weeks is definite and specific and we can also have the article removed in the sentence. It would still make sense grammatically and lexically. We can also have phrases like

"Some few weeks ago...", "Many weeks ago..."

depending on context of use but make sure you don't violate grammatical and lexical rules when constructing these sentences.

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