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quantifiers in English - a guide
Quantifiers are a type of
determiner which denote imprecise
quantity. They modify nouns or
They differ from numbers
numerals which indicate precise quantity.
are three main types of quantifier;
common quantifiers used in English are:
/ any , much, many, a lot, a few, several, enough.
many, lots of, plenty of, numerous, a large number of, etc.
non-count nouns (always in the singular); many
is used with ► count
nouns in the plural.
(See ► the
difference between count nouns and non-count nouns).
and many in affirmative statements
spoken English, Much,
and to a lesser extent many
often used as quantifiers in affirmative
statements, unless introduced by an intensifier, notably so or too
or followed by
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.
many reasons for
that this man is innocent
This 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.
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 .....
This 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.
This is quite acceptable in
formal context, but in spoken and less formal written style, 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
There are too
many people in here
These examples, with so
and too, are
perfectly normal English
and many in negative statements and questions
are more commonly used in interrogative and
and most particularly in the interrogative expressions How much and How
We don't have
much time to finish
There are not
many people who know the answer to this.
you have much luck ?
much does this tee-shirt cost?
many times do I have to tell you not to do that
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
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.
of the houses
were destroyed in the war.
didn't drink much beer
didn't drink much of that
a number of
These 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
few, little, a little, not many, not much, a small number of, etc.
Except for not much
or not many,
quantifiers are generally used in affirmative
► Little, a little, not much
are used with non-count nouns
(always in the singular)
quantity which is essentially small or smaller than expected.
few, not many are used with count nouns in the
few and a little
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.
and relative quantifiers:
Neutral quantifiers do not indicate either a large quantity or a small
quantity: they are not really concerned by actual quantity, only by relative quantity.
They are dealt with in four different groups:
Most, most of and
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
do not mean
the same as many / many
Enough implies a sufficient
quantity; it is used in affirmations, negations and
done enough work for one day.
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.
Click for more about ►
do not confuse....
as a quantifier adjective preceding
a noun, as in
done enough work for one day.
as an intensifier following
an ► adjective
, as in:
enough for me.
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...
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)
||... applies to
be followed by an article or other determiner
||all of, each
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.