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3 Interesting Ways to Say “A Little”

Announcement! As of August 1, 2019, the TOEFL Reading, Listening and Speaking sections will be shortened. The TOEFL will also make changes to its prep materials and scoring system. Because of this, some of the info in our blog posts may not yet reflect the new exam format. We cover all the changes here.

This post originally appeared on the ABA English blog.

Here at ABA English we pride ourselves on knowing that we are making a difference to our students’ learning every day. But we always want to improve. With that in mind, today’s post is going to expand your vocabulary and teach you alternative ways to say “a little” in English. Did you know that the way in which we express “little” depends on the object we are talking about? In other words, there are certain objects which must be used with specific phrases — phrases that do not work with others.

A spot (of something)

In English if you have “a spot of” something, it just means that you have a little of it. It is good to incorporate this sentence into your vocabulary in order to avoid using “little” all the time.

    Where did you go this afternoon?
    I just went to do a spot of shopping.
    Did you buy a lot?
    Just a spot of Christmas presents.

A tad (of something)

This expression may not be familiar to you as it is a little colloquial (but not informal, may we add) and will be understood by all native English speakers in the correct context meaning “a little”.

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    Would you like some french fries with your burger?
    Yes please, but just a tad.

As we can see, this will not be misunderstood from the context by any native English speaker and in turn further diversifies your English vocabulary and deviates it away from the general use of “little”. It should be noted however that we would only really used “tad” for a quantity of something physical like food in this case. In other words, we would never say “a tad of time” but rather a “bit of time”.

A smidgen

If this expression does not sound very familiar, don’t panic because you can learn it but do note that native speakers use this in many different situations in place of using “little”.

    Gordon, do you take sugar in your tea?
    Just a smidgen please, Jane.

With “smidgen” in this example we can see that we are referring to a small quantity. Generally smidgen is used to refer to small quantities of any sort of food substance.

    Did you make the bus earlier, Shaun?
    By a smidgen, Denise.

By contrast to the first example, we can see in the second example for smidgen that it is not actually referring to a small quantity of a food source but rather a small amount of time. What we are trying to stress is that there are many uses of each example although explaining every eventuality here is impossible and it is up to you to learn them slowly but surely.

Can these examples be learnt in a smidgen?

We shouldn’t pretend to ourselves that we can learn everything in short periods of time because there are many ways in which things can be said in English to mean the same thing. It needs to be stressed that examples and situations in which we can use certain sentences should learnt one by one so that they are clear. Having confidence in your own ability to improve is key
If you would like to read more articles like this, then check out the ABA English blog here!

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