Quelque(s) vs (un) peu de = A couple/a few vs a bit of/few (indefinite adjectives)

quelque (singular) 

You will generally only come across the singular form in a very few fixed expressions, such as quelqu'un (someone), quelque part (some where), quelque temps (some time / a while).

Je la connais depuis quelque temps.
I've known her for some time.

quelques (plural)

Used with countable things it means a couple of, some, a few.

Il a quelques livres à lire.
He has a few books to read.

J'ai acheté quelques bougies pour décorer ma chambre.
I bought a couple of candles to decorate my bedroom.

Here also see Quelques, plusieurs, de nombreux = A few, several, many (quantities)

[un] peu de 

Used with uncountable quantities, un peu de means a little, abit of

J'ai un peu de lait.
I have a little (bit of) milk.

Tu t'es amusé hier? - Un peu.
Did you enjoy yourself yesterday? A bit.

 

and peu de means little, not much of, few

Nous avons peu d'argent.
We have little money.  
We haven't got much money.

Elle a peu d'amis.
She has few friends.

 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

J'ai acheté quelques bougies pour décorer ma chambre.
I bought a couple of candles to decorate my bedroom.


J'ai quelques amis qui vont me rendre visite. 
I have some friends who are going to visit me.


Elle a peu d'amis.
She has few friends.


Je la connais depuis quelque temps.
I've known her for some time.


J'ai un peu de lait.
I have a little (bit of) milk.


Tu t'es amusé hier? - Un peu.
Did you enjoy yourself yesterday? A bit.


Nous avons peu d'argent.
We have little money.  
We haven't got much money.


Il a quelques livres à lire.
He has a few books to read.


Q&A Forum 9 questions, 17 answers

Any difference between 'quelque' and 'un peu de' when both mean 'a bit of'? Are they interchangeable?

Il a quelque difficulté à se concentrer pour faire ses devoirs

Il a un peu de difficulté à se concentrer pour faire ses devoirs


Asked 2 months ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi Joan,

That's an interesting question and it did get me thinking...

Quelque in the singular means some in English, in other words, an indeterminate amount of something.

e.g.

Ils habitent à quelque distance de chez nous They live some distance/way from our house

Il y a quelque temps que je ne l'ai pas vu I have not seen him for some time 

so, in your example -

He has some difficulty in concentrating = Il a quelque difficulté à se concentrer

Quelques in the plural can mean some too but also a few

Il a quelques amis chez lui pour le weekend = He has to a few friends to stay at the weekend

Elle a réfléchi quelques instants avant de répondre She pondered for a few instants before answering

J'ai quelques problèmes en ce moment = I have a few problems at the moment

'Un peu de' is more specific as it means, a small amount of -

un peu de = a small quantity  ( a bit of - a little )

e.g.

Je demande un peu de calme I am asking for a bit of calm

Il a un peu de sinusite en ce moment He has a touch of sinusitis at the moment

Hope this helps!

Il a quelques difficultés à se concentrer. -- He has some difficulties to concentrate.
Il a un peu de difficulté à se concentrer. -- He has a bit of difficulty to concentrate.

They come close in their meaning but still, there is some difference. I certainly have some difficulty in describing it in any meaningful way. Maybe you can get the difference by staring at the example sentences? The input of a native speaker would certainly be helpful, too.

Any difference between 'quelque' and 'un peu de' when both mean 'a bit of'? Are they interchangeable?

Il a quelque difficulté à se concentrer pour faire ses devoirs

Il a un peu de difficulté à se concentrer pour faire ses devoirs


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In reference to the question with "Georges a acheté quelques livres au marché."

Why can't a valid answer be "George bought four or so books at the market?" In English, a few could possibly mean "four or so." "Few" is a vaguely definable quantity in English -- does "quelques" mean something more specific in French,  or is this a matter of question/answer construction?

Asked 8 months ago
SteveB2

Blake,

I would translate "quelques" as "some" in this phrase.

Without a definite quoted number in the phrase, personally I would not be inclined to put a number in the translated text.

In reference to the question with "Georges a acheté quelques livres au marché."

Why can't a valid answer be "George bought four or so books at the market?" In English, a few could possibly mean "four or so." "Few" is a vaguely definable quantity in English -- does "quelques" mean something more specific in French,  or is this a matter of question/answer construction?

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RobB1

Elle a peu d'amis. She has few friends. Il a quelques livres à lire. He has a few books to read.

Asked 1 year ago

Hi Rob,

peu is the opposite of beaucoup. And quelques is "a few". Maybe you could say peu is "few" and quelques is "a few"  

However you want to translate this into English, it's best to try grasp the meaning in French first. Often it isn't possible to make a 1:1 correspondence between English and French. 

-- Chris. 

Elle a peu d'amis. She has few friends. Il a quelques livres à lire. He has a few books to read.

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RobB1

I don't understand this.

Asked 1 year ago
See my reply to your later post. 

I don't understand this.

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In the exercise quelques livres is translated as a couple of books as well as some books.

In English I was always taught that strictly "couple" means two and it's a misuse to use it otherwise.  Can you explain why quelques therefore translates as some and two?  Thank you.
Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi K,

In my experience, a couple of, in English is used for 2 or thereabouts.

We don't have such an expression for very small approximate quantities in French as they start with the number 10:

Une dizaine, une vingtaine, une trentaine etc.. which mean about 10, 20, 30 ...

so Quelques, meaning a few, ( an indeterminate small quantity) can be somea few or a couple of depending on the context.

Some will often be 'des'.

Hope this helps!

In the exercise quelques livres is translated as a couple of books as well as some books.

In English I was always taught that strictly "couple" means two and it's a misuse to use it otherwise.  Can you explain why quelques therefore translates as some and two?  Thank you.

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Can we say (un peu d’argent) ? And will it make a difference in meaning form ( peu d’argent)

Asked 1 year ago
ChrisC1Correct answer

Hi Nabeel,

yes, there's a slight difference in meaning.

un peu d'argent -- a bit of money.
peu d'argent -- little money.

For example:

Il ne me faut qu'un peu d'argent pour ça. -- I only need a little bit of money for that.
Il est pauvre. Il a peu d'argent. -- He is poor. He is little money.

Hope that helps, -- Chris (not a native speaker).

Can we say (un peu d’argent) ? And will it make a difference in meaning form ( peu d’argent)

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Pourrais-je avoir un peu de lait? Why is it not 'du lait' as in "pourrais-je avoir du lait?"

Asked 1 year ago
Because there is an amount specified for the milk ("un peu") you don't use the article, just "de". If you say "je voudrais du lait' you're just asking for some milk, no amount specified, hence the article which makes "de" to "du". There is a specific lesson dedicated to the partitive article. -- Chris (not a native speaker).
Thank you, I now understand.
AurélieKwiziq language super star
Bonjour Stewart !

Indeed, with expression of quantity like "beaucoup de, un peu de...", you will only use "du" if you mean "a lot of the, a bit of the", as such:
Je bois un peu de lait.
I drink a bit of milk.

Je bois un peu du lait que j'ai trouvé dans le frigo.
I drink a bit of the milk that I found in the fridge.

Here's our lesson about partitive articles:
https://progress.lawlessfrench.com/revision/grammar/du-de-la-de-l-are-used-to-express-some-or-any-partitive-articles


I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Pourrais-je avoir un peu de lait? Why is it not 'du lait' as in "pourrais-je avoir du lait?"

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Elle a peu d'amis? But you can count your friends.

Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq language super star
Bonjour Doraida ! Here the distinction is about whether to use "un peu de" (uncountable) versus "peu de" (countable): you will need the "de" in both cases. I hope that's helpful! À bientôt !
Thank you I think I understand now
Aurélie, I recommend making the distinction between "a few friends" translated as "quelques" and "few friends" translated as "peu de" clearer in this lesson. As wriiten in the lesson, the usage of quelques and peu de appears to depend on countable and uncountable things. quelques (plural)

Used with countable things it means a couple of, some, a few.

[un] peu de 

Used with uncountable quantities, un peu de means a little, a bit of

Elle a peu d'amis? But you can count your friends.

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Il a quelques amis

Would "Il a quelques amis" be the same as "Il a peu d'amis"?
Asked 2 years ago
AndrewC1Correct answer
I think I worked it out sorry...

Il a quelques amis = he has A FEW friends

Il a peu d'amis = he has FEW friends
AurélieKwiziq language super star
Exactement Andrew :)
J'ai fait le même erreur. On peut toujours profiter de lire les questions. ;-)

But the lesson above says that 'peu de' only used with uncountable quantities, whereas ami is countable, why 'ami' can be used with 'peu de'?

Il a quelques amis

Would "Il a quelques amis" be the same as "Il a peu d'amis"?

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Let me take a look at that...