Abstract The effect of small substitutions on the coercivity of Nd–Fe–B and Nd–Fe–Co–B-sintered magnets has been investigated. Addition of 0.18 at% Ga was found to be the most effective for improving the coercivity in both Nd–Fe–B and Nd–Fe–Co–B without decreasing much the remanent magnetization. Scanning electron microscopy on Ga-free and Ga-added magnets did not reveal a noticeable difference in phase morphology. However, Fe and especially Co concentrations in the intergranular Nd-rich phase were found to be markedly increased after the small Ga addition. Combined addition of Co with a small amount of Cu did not increase the coercivity of the Dy-free magnets. However, none of the examined very small additives can yet be considered as an alternative to Dy for extending operating temperature range of the high-energy Nd–Fe–B magnets.