Trouble Understanding 少し

Hello, I’m having a little trouble understanding the vocab word 少し and I was wondering if someone could help me out.

My problem stems mainly from the fact that it’s listed as a noun/adverb, whereas there is an adjective form 少ない. I’m having trouble seeing how the definition of ‘a little’ or ‘a few’ could possibly be a noun/adverb and not an adjective, and thus when 少し would be used instead of 少ない.

For example, if I say ‘a few eggs’ or ‘a little angry,’ wouldn’t ‘few’ be describing the amount of eggs, and ‘little’ be describing how angry? From my current understanding, that would make them adjectives. I’ve also been taught that adverbs are words that end with -ly, for example ‘quickly’, but the definitions of 少し don’t do that.

Sorry if this is a stupid question…any help would be appreciated!


Insert mandatory welcome back post here


In English as a noun:

I only ate a little. (Direct object of ate)

In Japanese:

少しを食べた (I ate a little)

In Japanese, you can use it directly as an adverb:

少し食べた (I barely ate.)


Adding ‘ly’ is a common way to go from an adjective to an adverb in English, but that’s not the main characteristic of adverbs. The main thing to remember is that adjectives modify nouns, while adverbs modify verbs.


少し is actually an adverb, whereas 少ない is always an adjective.

Edit: that was woefully inadequate :sweat_smile:

少し never describes nouns, as an adjective should. 少ない is what you’d use in appropriate situations. 少し can modify verbs - “I ran a little bit faster” - or adjectives - “He was a little bit angry today” - but not nouns - “That is a little bit dog”


Japanese has adverbial nouns so it gets a bit confusing sometimes. :wink:

Most of them are する pairs such as 勉強する or things like 全部 in the following:



True! Why can’t it just be something sensible like “I can read hiragana zenbu-ly” :pensive:



Whew, thank you so much for your replies, everyone! I definitely understand a lot better now.

It seems a lot of my confusion stemmed from not being able to think of the appropriate examples, as well as not completely understanding the function of various parts of speech like adverbs. This knowledge should continue to help me down the line!

This is definitely one of those things where you shouldn’t worry too much about conceptualising it, and focus on just getting more words and grammar into your head :blush:. These sorts of grammar rules feel complicated, but it’s really more a question of getting used to it rather than understanding it.


Gotcha. Yeah, I definitely need to spend more time on grammar in general.

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