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a little vs. a bit


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a little vs. a bit #1 (permalink) Tue Jun 04, 2013 21:26 pm   a little vs. a bit
 

Business Idiom in English, Intermediate level

ESL/EFL Test #129 "Ways of greeting", question 8

Hello there. I just don't believe it. You haven't changed a ......... since we last met.

(a) bit
(b) piece
(c) little
(d) section

Business Idiom in English, Intermediate level

ESL/EFL Test #129 "Ways of greeting", answer 8

Hello there. I just don't believe it. You haven't changed a bit since we last met.

Correct answer: (a) bit

Your answer was: incorrect
Hello there. I just don't believe it. You haven't changed a little since we last met.
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why not: a little?
please the difference between: a little and a bit ?
thanx
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Re: a little vs. a bit #2 (permalink) Wed Jun 05, 2013 5:30 am   Re: a little vs. a bit
 

why not: a little?
please the difference between: a little and a bit ?
thanx[/quote]
"a bit" is less than "a little", and "a little" is just not used in that situation.
'You haven't changed at all.' is also correct.
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a little vs. a bit #3 (permalink) Wed Jun 05, 2013 7:44 am   a little vs. a bit
 

I disagree that 'a bit' is necessarily less than 'a little', though the rest of the advice is sound.
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a little vs. a bit #4 (permalink) Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:17 am   a little vs. a bit
 

Hi Canadian45,

I agree that in this particular negative sentence 'a bit' suggests even less than a little. It means that the speaker sees not the slightest difference in the appearance of the other person.

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Re: a little vs. a bit #5 (permalink) Wed Jun 05, 2013 15:32 pm   Re: a little vs. a bit
 

Saneta wrote:
why not: a little?
please the difference between: a little and a bit ?
thanx

Hi Saneta,

Looking at how 'a little' and 'little' are used might also help explain why 'a little' doesn't work in the test sentence.

We use 'a little' and 'little' in different ways. You might say that 'a little' has a more positive feel to it, whereas 'little' has a more negative feel to it. Thus, 'a little' tends to sound like more than 'little' does -- even though in reality the amounts might actually be the same.

Let's imagine two people: Person #1 has a total of $20 in his wallet, and person #2 has a total of $20 dollars in his bank account. Now compare the following two sentences:

1. I have a little money. = I have some money.
2. I have little money. = I do not have much money.

Perhaps person 1 wants to go out to dinner with friends. He thinks that he has enough money to pay for his own dinner. So, he views his $20 in a positive way ('a little money').

In contrast, if person 2 has only $20 in his bank account, he is probably worried about how he is going to pay all his bills. Person 2 thinks that he does not have enough money. So, he views his $20 in a negative way ('little money').

Note also that neither sentence 1 nor sentence 2 used 'not' with the verb. The verb was not negated in sentence 2 even though it presents a negative idea. Thus, we generally do not use either 'not little' or 'not a little'.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On the other hand, it IS possible to say 'not a bit' (i.e. the verb is negated). That means 'not at all'. It is also possible to say 'a bit' (i.e. without negating the verb). That means 'some' or 'a little bit'.

Going back to the test sentence, if you wanted to use 'a little', you would have to add something to the sentence in order for it to work with the negated verb. For example, you could say this:

- You haven't changed even a little since we last met.

That would then have the same meaning as 'You haven't changed a bit since we last met' -- and it means there has been no change at all.

Hope that helps.

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a little vs. a bit #6 (permalink) Wed Jun 05, 2013 19:38 pm   a little vs. a bit
 

Alan wrote:
I agree that in this particular negative sentence 'a bit' suggests even less than a little.

In this context, a little' doesn't work at all, so I don't see how someone can logically say that in this particular sentence it suggests even less than a little.
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a little vs. a bit #7 (permalink) Thu Jun 06, 2013 5:33 am   a little vs. a bit
 

Beeesneees wrote:
Alan wrote:
I agree that in this particular negative sentence 'a bit' suggests even less than a little.

In this context, a little' doesn't work at all, so I don't see how someone can logically say that in this particular sentence it suggests even less than a little.

I don't think the fact that "a little" is not a suitable answer means that one can't compare the amounts of "a little" and "a bit".
Also, "a bit" is less than "a little" when referring to the amount of many things.
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a little vs. a bit #8 (permalink) Thu Jun 06, 2013 8:30 am   a little vs. a bit
 

Note Alan's words "in this particular negative sentence" - you cannot compare the amounts in this sentence.

I still disagree that 'a bit' is necessarily less than 'a little' when referring to the amount of something. I don't see how you can make a comparative difference between:
Just a bit of...
and
Just a little...
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a little vs. a bit #9 (permalink) Fri Jun 07, 2013 1:46 am   a little vs. a bit
 

Beeesneees wrote:
Note Alan's words "in this particular negative sentence" - you cannot compare the amounts in this sentence. Why not, and I don't think that "negative" is significant at all.
I still disagree that 'a bit' is necessarily less than 'a little' when referring to the amount of something. Then we might have to remain in disagreement. I don't see how you can make a comparative difference between:
a bit of...
and
a little...

To me, 'a bit of (sugar)(rain)' is less than 'a little....', and the examples can go on.
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a little vs. a bit #10 (permalink) Fri Jun 07, 2013 6:27 am   a little vs. a bit
 

To me, apart from the formality, I see no discernible difference between
Just a little sugar, please.
Just a bit of sugar, please.
or
It's raining a little.
It's raining a bit.

and in fact, in this context:
We had a little rain this morning.
We had a bit of rain this morning.
I would be more likely to view 'a little' as less than 'a bit' (I would see it as being more akin to 'quite a bit').

So it seems that it would be best to avoid making a general statement or assumption that 'a bit' is less than 'a little'.
The difference will vary from person to person and sometimes from context to context.
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a little vs. a bit #11 (permalink) Fri Jun 07, 2013 9:00 am   a little vs. a bit
 

I find this comment a bit, not to say a little dismissive:

Quote:
So it seems that it would be best to avoid making a general statement or assumption that 'a bit' is less than 'a little'.
The difference will vary from person to person and sometimes from context to context.

Let's share the differences, not dismiss them.
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a little vs. a bit #12 (permalink) Fri Jun 07, 2013 10:28 am   a little vs. a bit
 

What a strange viewpoint.
As you seem to be admitting that there are differences of opinion in your final sentence, then it should be obvious that a general assertion of the type made in message #2 cannot be appropriate.
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a little vs. a bit #13 (permalink) Fri Jun 07, 2013 12:27 pm   a little vs. a bit
 

Missed the point, sadly.
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a little vs. a bit #14 (permalink) Fri Jun 07, 2013 17:34 pm   a little vs. a bit
 

Yes, it appears you have.

Here's a useful link for anyone who's interested in 'little'/'bit' quantities:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/youmeus/learnit/learnitv203.shtml
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a little vs. a bit #15 (permalink) Fri Jun 07, 2013 20:06 pm   a little vs. a bit
 

Beeesneees wrote:
To me, apart from the formality, I see no discernible difference between
Just a little sugar, please.
Just a bit of sugar, please.
Why do you keep adding 'just'? There is no 'just' in the pertinent part of the test sentence.
Adding words like 'just' or 'only' makes the whole phrases more similar and in that way makes 'a little' and 'a bit' seem more similar. If your case is strong, you shouldn't have to embellish it.


So it seems that it would be best to avoid making a general statement or assumption that 'a bit' is less than 'a little'. If that's what one believes, what's wrong with saying so?
The difference will vary from person to person and sometimes from context to context.
That's possible too, especially the first part.
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