a little
{n.} or {adj.} A small amount (of); some. - Usually "a little" is different in meaning from "little", which emphasizes the negative; "a little" means "some"; but "little" means "not much". We say * /"We thought that the paper was all gone, but a little was left."/ But we say, * /"We thought we still had a bag of flour, but little was left."/ Also, we say, * /"Bob was sick yesterday, but he is a little better today."/ But we say, * /"Bob was sick yesterday, and he is little better today."/ Sometimes "a little" is used with "only", and then it is negative. * /We thought we had a whole bag of flour, but only a little was left./ * /We have used most of the sugar; but a little is left./ * /We did not eat all the cake; we saved a little of it for you./ * /I'm tired; I need a little time to rest./ * /Where is the paper? I need a little more./ - Often used like an adverb. * /Usually the teacher just watched the dancing class, but sometimes she danced a little to show them how./ * /The children wanted to play a little longer./ - Sometimes used with "very" for emphasis. * /The sick girl could not eat anything, but she could drink a very little tea./ Syn.: A BIT. Compare: A FEW. Contrast: A LOT, QUITE A LITTLE.

Dictionary of American idioms. 2013.

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