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Little or a little

Posted by GPP on August 22, 2003

In Reply to: Little or a little posted by GPP on August 22, 2003

: : Hello.
: : Let me ask you some questions about a little and little.

: : There is ( a little / little ) doubt that Annemie's team will win the quiz.

: : I feel that both a little and little are correct as this sentence goes. But some friends say a little is not correct.

: : How about "There is a little doubt that Annemie's team would win the quiz."?

: These two usages actually mean close to the opposite of each other. To say 'there is little doubt' means you're nearly positive--not entirely so, perhaps, but nearly--that Annemie's team will win. But when you say 'a little doubt', you mean that although Annemie's team may be favored to win, you think it's much more an open contest. In neither case are you expressing certainty one way or the other. 'Some doubt' is more than 'a little doubt'; or one might say 'a great deal of doubt'. But in all of these you're going AGAINST the supposition that Annemie's team will win, whereas with 'little doubt' you are expressing confidence in that outcome.

Tak, you might be confused comparing Anwar's response to mine, concerning 'certainty'. Actually, we're both saying the same thing. Obviously no one can be absolutely certain in advance of the contest; rather, with 'little doubt', we both mean we're very confident that Annemie's team will win, whereas with 'a little doubt' we both mean we are dubious about that outcome.