financial means


Senior Member
France French
I'd like to use the word means in the sense of "He is not rich", and I don't know if means is countable or uncountable, so, what's correct :
"He has few means" or "little means"? Of course, if I say "He has no means" I avoid the question!

Thank you!
  • timoun

    Senior Member
    France French
    Thank you, bh7 : I like your sentence.
    By the way, is means countable or not? Does anyone know?


    Senior Member
    English - American
    Well, you wouldn't say "He has 3 means, but she has 10 means", so in that sense it's not countable. Sources of means, however, would be countable; if you have own a business, receive royalties, and get disability, you would be said to have three sources of income, or means (though we wouldn't say "sources of means").

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I think 'limited means' is the usual collocation. You can qualify this with 'very' or 'extremely', for example. I think I would say few means but I have said little means to myself so often now that it is starting to sound fine. 'He has few means/ He's a man of few means' - not many sources of income. It is literary or very formal spoken English, and something of a euphemism.

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I said little means, not to suggest it was a very common way of talking, but because seeing if we say a few or little is a standard way of discovering if something is countable or not: do you say little X (little milk) or a few X (a few bottles of milk)?

    Means are interesting because it can be countable when it indicates ways: e.g. he had a few means of escape; though we also can say he had little means of escape, to mean he had no way to get out.

    That's why I specified that I was talking about means to mean income or wealth, where is is always uncountable, I think; He was a man of a few means:cross:.
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