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Teacher: I wish you'd pay a little attention

Student: I'm paying as little as I can.

This pun relies on the important difference between "little" and "a little".

little is rather negative. It suggests "not much, not as much as necessary". Look at these examples:

  • Sorry. I can't help. I speak little Thai.
  • Unfortunately, there is little hope of finding any survivors.

a little is more positive. It suggests something more like "some". Look at these examples:

  • Why don't you ask Ram for help? He speaks a little Thai.
  • It's okay. There's a little butter in the fridge.

Remember: a little > little

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