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A guide to using quantifiers in English

Definition
Quantifiers are a type of determiner which denotes imprecise quantity. They
modify nouns or pronouns.
They differ from numbers or numerals which indicate precise quantity.

The most common examples:


The most common quantifiers used in English are:

some / any , much, many, a lot, a few, several, enough.

There are three main types of quantifier;

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
countnouns in the plural. (Click here for the difference between count nouns and
non-count nouns).

IMPORTANT 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 negative contexts.

Examples:
I have many reasons for thinking that this man is innocent 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 ......
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. 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.
Examples:
He has 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 like :
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 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..

Examples:
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 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 missing child.
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.

Few and little imply a quantity which is essentially small or smaller than expected.
A few and a little imply small quantity, but possibly more than expected

Examples:
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.

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


2. Each and every
3. All and whole
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
asmany / 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.
Have you got enough money for the tickets?
No, I haven't got enough.
NOTE: do not confuse enough as a quantifier adjective preceding a noun,
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

some, several, a number


Neutral any, enough any, enough
of, enough

Large numerous, plenty of, a lot much, many, much, many,


quantity of, lots of, too many too many too many

Small
few / a few, Little / a little
quantity

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

all of, each of, some of, many of, much


MUST be followed by an
of, (a) few of, (a) little of, none of,
article or other determiner
several of, enough of,
MAY or MAY NOT be
plenty of, a lot of, lots of, a number of, a
followed by an article or
couple of,
other determiner

Here are a few examples; most are right, some (in grey and barred out) are wrong.

Examples:
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.

Examples:
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.
QUANTIFIERS: much , many , a lot of , plenty of, some &
any
countable uncountable affirmative negative interrogative
much

many

a lot of / plenty
of
some

any

Here are some examples:

I drank a lot of water because it was very hot this morning.


There isn't any coffee in my cup.
Is any lemonade in the fridge?
I have some books on cooking in my library.
I need some sugar, please.
Nancy doesn't know many people here.
There isn't much milk in the bottle.