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Other experts also have little doubt that China was behind this attack.

This is quoted from: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/did-china-just-launch-a-cyber-attack-on-github

When I was learning English I was told little means very very less while a little means some. According to the context it seems the experts were quite sure it's an attack from the China Government, then why not use a little doubt here. What kind of meaning is the author trying to convey?

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  • What you were told is correct and it applies to your example sentence. Try to think of little as almost none or virtually none: Other experts also have almost no doubt that China was behind this attack. Mar 29, 2015 at 16:43

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In this context, "a little doubt" would focus on the doubt, whereas "little doubt" focuses on the high level of certainty.

So, the "little doubt" version means "Other experts are pretty much certain...",

but the "a little doubt" version would mean: "Other experts are not absolutely sure..."

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  • oh, it seems I just asked a very stupid question! thanks! when two negative words combined together I sometimes make such kind of mistakes. Mar 30, 2015 at 1:50
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    Hmm. I think your question was actually a very good one. The difference in meaning between "little" and "a little" is rather subtle and it deserves being asked about. Shrug. :-)
    – tkp
    Mar 30, 2015 at 2:14

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