Word Confusion: Few versus Phew

Posted January 12, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Phew, the fewer words the better with this pair of heterographs…since I’m pulling another all-nighter, lol.

Well, yeah, I have a few nights that I’m not up ’til the wee hours, but they are few and far between. Fortunately, I do have a good few word confusion pairs on the waiting list, actually quite a few.

Phew, just looking at that list raises no fewer than a hundred thoughts on not a few of the years it’ll take to get through that list.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Few Phew
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: few

The last day at Woolworth's and there are a few shoppers browsing the very few items left on the shelves.

“Last Day at Woolworth’s” by Lee Haywood is under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Shoppers get up to 90% off on the few items remaining on the nearly empty shelves.


Dilapidated bridge with a solitary bike parked on it

“Rickety Bridge on Pass to Lago Desierto” by Jason Hollinger is under the CC BY 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Phew! I’d hate to try driving a car across this bridge!

Part of Grammar:
Adjective; Determiner;
Noun, Plural for noun: the few
Pronoun
Exclamation
Adjective:
Not many but more than one

[A few] A small number of

Used to emphasize how small a number of people or things is

Determiner:
[Sometimes preceded by a] A small number of

Hardly any

[Informal] Several

Noun:
The minority of people

The elect

[Use with a plural verb] A small number or amount

The few, a special, limited number

The minority

Pronoun:
[A few] A small number of

Used to emphasize how small a number of people or things is

[Informal] Expressing a strong reaction of relief, surprise, disbelief, weariness, etc.
Examples:
Adjective:
Few artists live luxuriously.

May I ask a few questions?

He had few friends.

The town had a population of fewer than two million.

Sewing was one of her few pleasures.

I need to ask which products have the fewest complaints.

There were quite a few interesting movies to see.

Determiner:
Few men are so cruel.

Many are called but few are chosen.

I’ve only had a few drinks.

I see there are a few of you here tonight.

Well, okay, we had a good few drinks.

Noun:
It’s a world that increasingly belongs to the few.

Send me a few, why don’t you?

That music appeals to the few, and I can see why.

Pronoun:
I will recount a few of the stories told me.

Many believe it but only a few are prepared to say.

Few had thought to challenge these assumptions.

Very few of the titles have any literary merit.

He is one of the few who survived.

A dozen people volunteered, but few have shown up.

Phew, what a year!

Phew, I never thought I’d get this job finished.

Phew, it’s hotter than Hell out here.

Oh, phew! It stinks in here!!

Derivatives:
Adjective: fewer, fewest, overfew
History of the Word:
Old English fēawe, fēawa is from an Indo-European root shared by the Latin paucus and the Greek pauros meaning small. Early 17th century, imitative of puffing.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

“PHEW! That Was A Close One! Legacy Unlimited Plans Unaffected By Verizon Price Hike!” by DroidModderX is via Droid Forums.


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