guide to using quantifiers in English - Part 1 .
Quantifiers are a type of
determiner which denote imprecise quantity. They differ from numbers or
numerals which indicate precise quantity.
The most common examples:
common quantifiers used in English are:
/ any , much, many, a lot, a few, several, enough.
are three types of quantifier;
- quantifiers of
large quantity, and
- quantifiers of
quantifiers - some, any etc ,
Large quantity quantifiers:
many, lots of, plenty of, numerous, a large number of, etc.
► Much and many (without of ): 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: Much, and to a lesser extent many,
are not often used as quantifiers, in modern
spoken English, in affirmative
statements; but they are very commonly used in interrogative and
this principle: 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 many and too much / too many are quite acceptable.
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 / a large number of reasons for thinking .....
whisky is of very good quality. This
sentence is technically acceptable, but not probable in modern spoken English.
Most people would say (and write):
A lot of whisky / A good
proportion of whisky / Plenty of whisky ......
much money is not normal English. Speakers would more naturally say:
He has a lot of money / He has loads of money.
Much 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.....
With so and too
There 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 all mean more or less exactly the same. 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.
► 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).
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
imply "more than one,
but less than a lot". They are not usually
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
Enough implies a sufficient
quantity; it is used in affirmations, negations and
can get tickets for the
concert, I've got enough money now.
you got enough money for the tickets?
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
Few or a few, little or a little ?
difference between the two expressions in each phrase is purely one of meaning, not of usage.
Without 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.
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.
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.