Lesson 20: Four Ways to Express A Little Amount in Chinese

Office Space

We use ‘a few’ and ‘a little’ to suggest not much of something in English. However, ‘a few’ is used for countable, while ‘a little’ is for uncountable things. How about in Chinese? Let’s learn how to express ‘a few things’, ‘a little thing’, and ‘some things’ in Chinese!

 

少 (shǎo)


Literally meaning: few, less, to lack

少 (shǎo), which is an adjective, is used to state that an amount of something is few/less.

Examples:


来的人比我们预料的少。

Lái de rén bǐ wǒmen yùliào de shǎo.

The number of people coming is less than we expected.


今年从中国来的游客少了许多。

Jīnnián cóng zhōngguó lái de yóukè shǎo le xǔduō.

There are fewer tourists coming from China this year.

 

You would likely to hear a command to ‘do something less’ using 少 (shǎo).

Structure: 少 + Verb


少看那些连续剧,多读点书。

Shǎo kàn nàxiē liánxùjù, duō dú diǎn shū.

Do not watch too much those series, read more books.


少说点话,记得这里是图书馆。

Shǎo shuō diǎn huà, jìdé zhèlǐ shì túshū guǎn.

Speak less, remember that this place is a library.

 

We can also use the degree adverb 很 (hěn) before the word 少 (shǎo) to express the adverb of frequency ‘rarely/seldom’.

Structure: 很 + 少


这里很少下雪。

Zhè lǐ hěn shǎo xià xuě.

It rarely snows here.


我很少吃早餐。

Wǒ hěn shǎo chī zǎocān.

I rarely eat breakfast.

 

稍 (shāo)


Literally meaning: a little, somewhat, too

In fact, 稍 (shāo) is an adverb, which can also come together with additional words as in 稍微 (shāo wēi): a little bit and 稍稍 (shāo shāo): a little, slightly.

Examples:


这个方法和之前的稍有不同。

Zhège fāngfǎ hé zhīqián de shāo yǒu bùtóng.

This method is slightly different from the previous one.


这道菜做得很好吃,就是稍微有点辣。

Zhè dào cài zuò dé hěn hào chī, jiùshì shāowéi yǒudiǎn là.

This dish is delicious, just a little bit spicy.

 

一点 [yī diǎn]


Literally meaning: a bit, a little

一点 [yī diǎn] or 一点点 [yī diǎn diǎn] can be used alone or along with another part of speech, to answer ‘a little’. For examples:


你吃午饭了吗?

Nǐ chī wǔfànle ma?

Have you eaten lunch?


吃了一点。

Chīle yīdiǎn.

I ate a little.


你累了吗?

Nǐ lèile ma?

Are you tired?


一点点。

yī diǎn diǎn

A little bit.

 

一些 (yī xiē)


Literally meaning: some, a few, a little

一些 (yī xiē) is used to indicate a small number of countable things. In term of the amount, 一些 (yī xiē) is more than 一点 [yī diǎn]. How do they differ?


我带了一些蛋糕。每一个人可以拿一块。

Wǒ dàile yī xiē dàngāo. Měi yīgèrén kěyǐ ná yīkuài.

I brought some cakes. Each people can take a piece.


这块蛋糕实在是太好吃了!不知不觉只剩下在盘子里的这么一点。

Zhè kuài dàngāo shízài shì tài hào chīle! Bùzhī bù jué zhǐ shèng xià zài pánzi lǐ de zhème yīdiǎn.

This cake is really delicious! Unconsciously, there is only a little left on the plate.

 

Did you notice the difference?


一些蛋糕 (yī xiē dàn gāo) is used to explain a few pieces of cakes – for example, two or three pieces of cake.

一点蛋糕 [yī diǎn dàn gāo] is used to explain a little amount, as in a portion of one single cake.