guide to using quantifiers in English - Part 1 .
Quantifiers are a type of
determiner which denote imprecise quantity. They modify nouns or
pronouns. They differ from numbers or
numerals which indicate precise quantity.
common quantifiers used in English are:
/ any , much, many, a lot, a few, several, enough.
are three types of quantifier;
- quantifiers of
- quantifiers of
quantifiers - some, any etc ,
Large quantity quantifiers:
many, lots of, plenty of, numerous, a large number of, etc.
► Much and many :
non-count nouns (always in the singular); many
is used with count
nouns in the plural. (Click here for the
difference between count nouns and non-count nouns).
NOTE: in modern
spoken English, Much,
and to a lesser
not often used as quantifiers in affirmative
statements; but they are very commonly used in interrogative and
many reasons for thinking
that this man is innocent is acceptable, but rather
formal; most English speakers would more naturally say:
have plenty of / a lot of / ample / reasons for thinking .....
whisky is of very good quality. This
sentence is technically acceptable, but not probable in modern spoken
Most people would say (and write):
A lot of whisky / A good
proportion of whisky / Plenty of whisky ......
don't use much
in affirmative statements, if you can avoid it. Though their use may be
possible, it often sounds very formal,
old-fashioned or strange in modern English. On the other
hand, much of / many of
are sometimes used in affirmative contexts; and so much / so
and too much / too many
are quite acceptable.
much money is not normal English. Speakers would more
He has a lot of money / He has loads of money.
of what you have written is very good. The
expression "much of" is acceptable in the affirmative; but except in a
formal context, most English-speakers would say (and write) something
A lot of what you have written...... A good deal of
what you have written.....
is so much poverty in the world - There are too
many people in here
► Lots of, a lot of, plenty of, a large
number of, numerous
These expressions are all more or less synonyms. In
the list above, they are arranged in order of formality, going from the
most informal (lots of)
to the most formal (numerous).
is more appropriate in dialogue, formal language in written documents.
For more on style, see styles
of English .
► Much / many or Much of / many of
As quantifiers, much
followed by of
when they quantify
a noun directly. However they must be
followed by of
before a determiner such as an article, a possessive or a
demonstrative. The same principle applies to few / few of (see
below), some / some of,
see many people.
can't see many of my
houses were destroyed in the war.
Many of the houses
were destroyed in the war.
didn't drink much beer
didn't drink much of that
► Several and
a number of
These imply "more
but less than a lot". They are not
used in negative or interrogative structures, only in affirmative
statements. For example
There are several books / a
number of books by J.K.Rowling in our library.
Several people / A number of people said that they'd seen the
There are a couple of common quantifiers that express relative or
Most / most of
These imply more than
half of, a majority of, or almost all . They
do not mean
the same as many / many
Enough implies a sufficient
quantity; it is used in affirmations, negations and
students will pass their exam.
The man lost most of his money at the casino.
can get tickets for the
concert, I've got enough money now.
you got enough money for the tickets?
No, I haven't got enough.
not confuse enough
as a quantifier preceding
a noun, with enough
as an intensifier following
, as in:
enough for me.
few, little, a little, not many, not much, a small number of, etc.
quantifiers are normally only used in affirmative statements, to
which they give a negative colouring.
► Little, a little, not much
are used with non-count nouns
(always in the singular)
few, not many
are used with count nouns in the
Few people can speak
more than three languages
few (of the) paintings in this gallery are really good.
little point in trying to mend it. You'll never succeed!
I've got a little money left; let's go and have a drink.
Some and any: several, a number
These are treated in part 2: see ► : Some and any and neutral quantifiers
Recapitulation: table of usage for common English
a number of, enough
plenty of, a lot of, lots of,
/ a few,
Little / a little
4.1. QUANTIFIERS WITH OF... TAKE
of, many of, few of, a little of, plenty of,
lots of, some of, a number of, none of, several of, etc.
When followed by of,
some of these quantifiers
MUST be followed by an article or other determiner; for others there is
a choice (article or no article)
be followed by an article or other determiner
||all of, some
of, many of, much of, (a) few of, (a) little of, none of, several of,
or MAY NOT be followed by an article or other determiner
of, a lot of, lots of, a number of, a couple of,
Here are a few examples; most are right, some (in grey and barred out)
of the people are right some of the time, but all of the people cannot
be right all of the time.
of people are right some of time, but all of people
cannot be right all of time.
of supporters came to the match
of the supporters came to the match.
of the players were sent off.
were sent off.
of players were sent off.
couple of players were sent off
couple of the players were sent off.
like a few of these apples, please.
like a few of your apples, please
like a few of apples, please.
Few or a few, little or a little ?
difference between the two expressions in each phrase is purely one of meaning, not of usage.
the article, few
(used respectively with count nouns and non-count nouns) have the
meaning of "not much/
not many, and possibly less than one might hope for or expect".
These expressions have a negative value to them.
the article, a few and
meaning of "at
least some, perhaps more than one might expect" . These
expressions have a positive value.
of my friends were there, so I was disappointed.
few of my friends were there, so I was quite happy.
up; there's little time left !
have a little time to spare, so let's stop and have a cup of coffee.