guide to using quantifiers in English
|Click for :||Quantifiers of large quantity||Quantifiers of small quantity||Neutral and relative quantifiers|
much, many, lots of, plenty of, numerous, a large number of, etc.
► Much and many :
Much is used with 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 extent many
are not often used as quantifiers in affirmative
statements; but they are very commonly used in interrogative and
► Lots of, a lot of, plenty of, a large number of, numerousThese 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). Informal language 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 and many are not followed by of when they quantify a noun directly. However they must be followed by of if they come 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, etc..
I can't see many people. but I can't see many of my friends
Many houses were destroyed in the war.
but Many of the houses were destroyed in the war.
They didn't drink much beer
but They didn't drink much of that beer we gave them.
► 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
Several people / A number of people said that they'd seen the missing child.
► few, a few, little, a little, not many, not much, a small number of, etc.Except for not much or not many, these quantifiers are generally used in affirmative statements.
► Little, a little, not much
are used with non-count nouns
(always in the singular)
Few, a few, not many are used with count nouns in the plural.
A few and a little imply small quantity, but possibly more than expected
Few people can speak more than three languages
A few (of the) paintings in this gallery are really good.
There's 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.
There's not much point in waiting for him to come.
relative quantity. They are dealt with in four different groups:
Most, most of and enoughThere are a couple of common quantifiers that express relative or proportional quantity.
► Most / most ofThese imply more than half of, a majority of, or almost all . They do not mean the same as many / many of.
► EnoughEnough implies a sufficient quantity; it is used in affirmations, negations and questions.
There were enough strong men to move the fallen tree.
We can get tickets for the concert, I've got enough money now.
Have you got enough money for the tickets?
No, I haven't got enough.
4. Recapitulation: table of usage for common English quantifiers
|Neutral||some, several, a number of, enough||any, enough||any, enough|
|Large quantity||numerous, plenty of, a lot of, lots of, too many||much, many, too many||much, many, too many|
|Small quantity||few / a few, Little / a little|
4.1. QUANTIFIERS WITH OF... TAKE CARE:
Much 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)
|The rule....||... applies to|
|MUST be followed by an article or other determiner||all of, each of, some of, many of, much of, (a) few of, (a) little of, none of, several of, enough of,|
|MAY or MAY NOT be followed by an article or other determiner||plenty 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) are wrong.
OK Some of the people are right some of the time, but all of the people cannot be right all of the time.
Not OK Some of people are right some of time, but all of people cannot be right all of time.
OK Plenty of supporters came to the match
OK Plenty of the supporters came to the match.
OK Several of the players were sent off.
OK Several players were sent off.
Not OK Several of players were sent off.
OK A couple of players were sent off
OK A couple of the players were sent off.
OK I'd like a few of these apples, please.
OK I'd like a few of your apples, please
Not OK I'd like a few of apples, please.
5. Few or a few, little or a little ?The difference between the two expressions in each phrase is purely one of meaning, not of usage.
Without the article, few and little (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.
With the article, a few and a little have the meaning of "at least some, perhaps more than one might expect" . These expressions have a positive value.
Few of my friends were there, so I was disappointed.
A few of my friends were there, so I was quite happy.
Hurry up; there's little time left !
We have a little time to spare, so let's stop and have a cup of coffee.