What's the difference between 少{すこ}し (sukoshi) and 小{ちい}さい (chiisai)?

In what situations would I use each one?

2 Answers 2


To add to the answer from Ignacio, 小さい is "little" that is opposite to "big" while 少し is "a little" that is opposite to "a lot". That is to say that 小さい describes the small size/volume, while 少し describes the small quantity/magnitude.

Adding 少し in "もう少し安いのはありませんか" adds the connotation of "a little" to "cheaper" to become "Is there one that is a little cheaper?" instead of simply "Is there one that is cheaper?". It softens the tone of the request.

  • 1
    In short, 少し means 'less'. もう少し means 'a little more'.
    – user458
    Commented Jul 18, 2011 at 14:53
  • 1
    @sawa, do you have an example where 少し means 'less'? I cannot think of any. I would say that 少し means 'a little' (as Lukman says) whereas 'less' in Japanese would be something like (もっと)少ない/少なく, depending on how it's used.
    – dainichi
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 7:35

「少し」 is an adverb, and as such it modifies verbs (「少し話せる」 -> "can speak a little"), and refers to ability or capability. 「小さい」 is an adjective, and so modifies nouns (「小さい餓鬼」 -> "little brat"), and refers to size.

  • Can you explain the following sentence from "Colloquial Japanese": もう少し安いのはありませんか. (Mou sukoshi yasui no wa arimasen ka.)? "Sukoshi" does not seem to be modifying a verb here.
    – MatthewD
    Commented Jul 18, 2011 at 7:46
  • 5
    Well, verbs are the most common thing for adverbs to modify, but they can also modify adjectives and other adverbs as well. Commented Jul 18, 2011 at 7:50

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