9

Does "a few" take a singular or plural verb in present simple tense?

  1. A few men lifts the table.
  2. A few men lift the table.
  3. A few frogs jumps out of the lake.
  4. A few frogs jump out of the lake.

I have searched the same question in google, but I see both answers. Which one is correct? How come "a few" is plural? Even though it refers to many, "a" makes "few" a singular, so it should take a singular verb, right?

Should I always put "a" in front of "few"? For example, are the following correct?

  1. Few men lift the table.
  2. Few frogs jump out of the lake.
7

The key is that you have men and frogs- both plural. Saying a few men is no different than saying some small number of men- which is clearly plural.

So the correct sentences are: A few men lift the table. And A few frogs jump out of the lake.

BUT, your second sentences are also grammatical- they just mean something else.

For example: Many men have tried, but few men lift the table.

Few frogs jump out of the lake- they seem to prefer to remain in it.

  • Okay, but why "a group of people" is a singular? I have seen "a group" is used as a singular. In the same way, "A few" should be singular, right? – T2E Sep 2 '13 at 8:28
  • 4
    @T2E "A few" is not article + noun but a fixed phrase which acts as a quantifier, like some or several. If you are asked How many men will this job require you may answer A few, but not A group. – StoneyB Sep 2 '13 at 11:49
  • It's worth to mention too that a few has a positive or neutral meaning and few a negative meaning. Compare: a few frogs jump out of the lake / few frogs jump out of the lake. – Alejandro Nov 26 '15 at 16:40
1

"A few/Few" are used with plural countable nouns. "A few" means not many, but enough. For example:

There are few hotels in this town. (You'll probably find a room to spend the night.)

"Few" means hardly any, almost none and can be used with very for emphasis.

There are (very) few hotels in this town. (You'll probably not find a room to spend the night / or this will be very difficult).

-1

"a few" is an idiomatic expression. As the combination of singular "a" and plural "few" is not very logical, you may assume that it is an elliptic formula, may be "a small quantity, but very few".

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