Linguapress English Grammar
Advanced level reading resources Intermediate reading resources English grammar online Language games and puzzles
Linguapress English Grammar

Quantifiers in English

Using quantifiers in English - a guide
Part 1 

Click for : Quantifiers of large quantity Quantifiers of small quantity Neutral and relative quantifiers 
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.  

The most common quantifiers used in English are:
some / any , much, many, a lot, a few, several, enough.

1. Large quantity 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. (See  the difference between count nouns and non-count nouns).

Much and many in affirmative statements

In modern spoken English, Much, and to a lesser extent many are not often used as quantifiers in affirmative statements, unless introduced by an intensifier, notably so or too , or followed by of;
I have many reasons for thinking that this man is innocent
This is acceptable, but rather formal; most English speakers would more naturally say:
   I have plenty of / a lot of / ample / reasons for thinking .....

Much 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 .....

He has much money
This is not normal English. Speakers would more naturally say:
   He has a lot of money / He has loads of money.... etc.

Much of what you have written is very good.
This is quite acceptable in a formal context, but in spoken and less formal written style, most English-speakers would say (and write) something like :
   A lot of what you have written......  A good deal of what you have written.....

   There is so much poverty in the world  -  
    There are too many people in here
These examples, with so and too,  are perfectly normal English
Remember : don't use much or many 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.  

Much and many in negative statements and questions

Much, and  many are more commonly used in interrogative and negative contexts, and most particularly in the interrogative expressions How much and How many
We don't have much time to finish this.
There are not many people who  know the answer to this.
Did you have much luck ?
How much does this tee-shirt cost?
How 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). 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.    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 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.

2. Small quantity quantifiers: 

 ►    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.

Important:  Few or a few,  little or a little.?

The difference between the two expressions in each phrase is  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 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.

2.1. Comparative quantifiers.  less  and fewer

Like more, these are used in explicit or implied comparisons. Traditional grammar dictates that less is only used with uncountable nouns and fewer is required with countable nouns. However English is a constantly changing language, and less is now frequently used with countable nouns.   Traditional grammars consider that a sentence like "use less words" is wrong, and that one should write "use fewer words", but it is certain that in the 21st century less is becoming an acceptable alternative to fewer, even in the most reputable publications. In spoken English, fewer is being replaced even faster.
"The Government is concentrated on making sure that less people are injured and less  people are dying on our roads."
      From a parliamentary report, Australia, 2021
"...more money actually represents less problems for players."
      From an article in the Los Angeles Times, 2022
"It would mean less employees, less sales tax, less economic activity "
      From an article in the Guardian (UK) , 2017
"The less one has to do, the less time one finds to do it in.“ — Lord Chesterfield

3. Neutral 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:
  1. Some and any   (see specific page)
  2. Each and every   (see specific page)
  3. All and whole   (see specific page)
  4. Most, most of and enough - See below

Most, most of and enough

There are a couple of common quantifiers that express relative or proportional quantity.

►  Most / most of 

These imply more than half of,  a majority of, or almost all . They do not mean the same as many / many of

►  Enough 

Enough implies a sufficient quantity; it is used in affirmations, negations and questions.
I've 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.

NOTE : do not confuse....

enough as a quantifier adjective preceding a noun, as in
I've done enough work for one day.
with enough as an intensifier following an  adjective, as in:
That's good enough for me.
   Click for more about  enough :

4. Recapitulation: table of usage for common English quantifiers

Affirm­ative Negative Interrog­ative
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

 ► For quantifiers used as pronouns, see Indefinite pronouns, quantifiers & gender-neutral pronouns


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.

 Return to English Grammar index

Return to Linguapress home page


Here is just a very small sample of articles in graded English to read on
Advanced level English (B2 - C1)
Nevada and its Extraterrestrials
Who killed Martin Luther King ? with audio
Henry Ford, the man who changed America with audio
America's drive-in movie theaters
The American way of eating.    with audio
Just who are the English ?
Tea and the British     with audio
JRR Tolkien - The man behind the Hobbit
Short story : A few good reasons  with audio
More short stories  with audio
Intermediate level English (B1 - B2)
Alcohol, prohibition and Al Capone
George Washington, America's first president  with audio
No more Fish 'n' chips ?  Britain's fast food.
New life for Big Ben  with audio

► Click for  Full grammar index
Selected main grammar pages
Verbs: the present tense
Verbs : the future
Past tenses
Phrasal & prepositional verbs
Gerunds, participles and -ing forms
The infinitive
Irregular verb tables
Nouns, pronouns, adjectives
Noun phrases
Adjective order in English
The possessive
Sentences & clauses
Relative clauses in English
Conditional clauses in English
Word order in English
Reported questions in English
Language and style 
Word stress in English
The short story of English

CopyrightCopyright information.
Free to view, free to share,  free to use in class, free to print, but not free to copy..
If you like this page and want to share it with others,  just share a link, don't copy.

Linguapress respects your privacy and does not collect personal data. We use cookies only to log anonymous visitor stats and enable essential page functions; click   to remove this message, otherwise click for more details