TODAY, we continue the analysis of the only sample considered last week. That excerpt is again retained as Sample 1.
Sample 1: “In an open letter signed by the secretary of the forum, Frank Osai, Oshiomale was urged to follow precedence and party guidelines that saw Lanre Isa-Onilu replace Bolaji Abdullahi as National Publicity Secretary, to fill the vacant National Secretary, National Vice Chairman North-West and other vacant positions without delay…This is in spite of the fact that not less than four chieftains of the party from the zone had indicated interest in succeeding the Yobe State governor as APC National Secretary.”(APC: growing concerns over vacant NWC positions, The Nation, 22 December, 2019)
Last week, we explained and illustrated the differences between little and a little on the one hand and few and a few on the other. Little and a little, we saw, are used for uncountable (or non-count) nouns while few and a few are used for countable nouns. Three sentences for each will serve today: 1) The manager’s power has been so drastically reduced that he now has little influence on policy decisions of the company. 2) I am feeling tired and feverish because I had little sleep last night. 3) Expatriates who are little known in their own countries parade themselves as eminent persons in our own country.
It should be clear that the word little is used to communicate an idea of hardly enough quantity or quality. The attitude of the writer/speaker to the noun the word little modifies is therefore negative.
Now compare those sentences with the following: 1) With a little more kindness you should be able to attract more goodwill from your neighbours. 2) With this level of cooperation coming from the six geo-political zones, my hope has been raised a little that the country would be a great one. 3) The recent achievement has boosted his morale a little.
The expression a little is used to signify that the quality/quantity in question is fairly satisfactory, though it is not remarkable.
Now the difference between little and a little (both of which are used for uncountable nouns) is no different from that between few and a few (both of which are used for countable nouns). Now read the following sentences: 1) The problem with Nigeria is that few Nigerians are proud to be identified as Nigerians. 2) Few politicians speak with the intention of fulfilling their promises. 3) She is so beautiful that few men can resist her charm.
Now a few: 1) The company has been recruiting new staff. A few of my classmates have secured appointments there. 2) Happily, the ban on promotion has been lifted; a few of our colleagues were promoted recently. 3) The EFCC is still functional; a few prominent Nigerians were charged to court recently.
Actually before we broke off last week, we were trying to see the difference between fewer and less. We had illustrated the usage of the word fewer. Three more examples would be sufficient today: 1) Job opportunities are becoming fewer and fewer. 2) Has it been proved scientifically that men are fewer than women on earth? 3) Fewer and fewer doctors are specializing in surgery.
The word less is used for uncountable nouns. Read the following sentences: 1) As you grow older, you should take less and less sugar. 2) Over the years the government has been spending less and less money on the humanities. 3) Having failed the exam repeatedly, he has become much less courageous than he was five years ago. 4) The money he was paid was less than he had expected. 5) His own share of the food is less than hers. 6) My faith in God is no less than yours. 7) This expression is much less appropriate than that. 8) Are scorpions less poisonous than snakes? 9) Since another woman came into his life, he has been spending less and less time with his legitimate wife. 10) The closer you are to the politicians, the less sincere you are likely to become.
The point to note here is that the word fewer is used with countable nouns and less with uncountable nouns.
Now many. The word many is used to modify countable nouns. Read the following sentences: 1) Many buildings have collapsed in Lagos in recent times. 2) There are many dangerous spots in Lagos. 3) Until recently, many teachers in Nigeria were untrained. 4) Too many younger musicians are not sufficiently creative. 5) Why is it that many students don’t want to study mathematics? 6) How many minutes are there in an hour? 7) The police officer said there were many criminals in the community. 8) There are many churches and mosques in the neighbourhood.
The word some can be used for both countable and uncountable nouns. Please read the following sentences: 1) I think the boy has some intelligence. 2) There is some milk in the kettle. 3) Since the last meeting, some peace has returned to the organization. 4) There is some truth in that statement. 5) She borrowed some money from her mother. 6) The coach underwent some training last year. 7) He fainted because he lost some blood. 8) He seems to have acquired some experience. 9) I spent some time listening to some good music. 10) With some encouragement, I believe she will do well.
The word some has been used to modify an uncountable noun in each of those sentences. In each of the following sentences, it is used to modify a countable noun: 1) Some ill-behaved boys are troubling the neighbourhood. 2) Some houses have been marked for demolition. 3) Some footballers are training on the field. 4) There are some oranges in the basket. 5) Some teachers have been appointed. 6) Some soldiers have marched down the road. 7) The police have arrested some criminals. 8) Some offensive points of the play have been removed. 9) You have some visitors. 10) Some students believe they can corruptly influence their scores in exams.
The following sentences illustrate the usage of much as an intensifier/quantifier: 1) Not much has been heard of him since he left. 2) The situation hasn’t changed much since I visited last. 3) There isn’t much information about the event. 4) You don’t seem to have much time these days. 5) How much does the mug cost? 6) Janet doesn’t talk much. 6) Not much can be achieved without the help of God. 7) The boy is feeling much better now. 8) She is not much of a singer. 9) Much of his time is taken up by religion. 10) I know how much you love your children, but you need to be less emotional about it.
At any rate the structure should read: “no fewer than four chieftains of the party.” Please note that we have replaced the word less with the quantifier fewer. Why? Because the nominal item being modified is plural: four chieftains.