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Much, many, a lot of, lots of: quantifiers

from English Grammar Today

We use the quantifiers much, many, a lot of, lots of to talk about quantities, amounts and degree. We can use them with a noun (as a determiner) or without a noun (as a pronoun).

Much, many with a noun

We use much with singular uncountable nouns and many with plural nouns:

[talking about money]

I haven’t got much change. I’ve only got a ten euro note.

Are there many campsites near you?

Questions and negatives

We usually use much and many with questions (?) and negatives (−):

Is there much unemployment in that area?

How many eggs are in this cake?

Do you think many people will come?

It was pouring with rain but there wasn’t much wind.

There aren’t many women priests.

Affirmatives

In affirmative clauses we sometimes use much and many in more formal styles:

There is much concern about drug addiction in the US.

He had heard many stories about Yanto and he knew he was trouble.

In informal styles, we prefer to use lots of or a lot of:

I went shopping and spent a lot of money.

Not: I went shopping and spent much money.

Much of, many of

When we use much or many before articles (a/an, the), demonstratives (this, that), possessives (my, your) or pronouns (him, them), we need to use of:

How much of this book is fact and how much is fiction?

Claude, the seventeenth-century French painter, spent much of his life in Italy.

Unfortunately, not many of the photographers were there.

How many of them can dance, sing and act?

This much, that much

Spoken English:

When we are talking to someone face-to-face, we can use this much and that much with a hand gesture to indicate quantity:

[the speaker indicates a small amount with his fingers]

I only had that much cake.

A lot of, lots of with a noun

We use a lot of and lots of in informal styles. Lots of is more informal than a lot of. A lot of and lots of can both be used with plural countable nouns and with singular uncountable nouns for affirmatives, negatives, and questions:

We’ve got lots of things to do.

That’s a lot of money.

There weren’t a lot of choices.

Can you hurry up? I don’t have a lot of time.

Are there a lot of good players at your tennis club?

Have you eaten lots of chocolate?

Much, many, a lot of, lots of: negative questions

When we use much and many in negative questions, we are usually expecting that a large quantity of something isn’t there. When we use a lot of and lots of in negative questions, we are usually expecting a large quantity of something.

Compare

Haven’t they sold many tickets?

(No, they haven’t.)

The speaker expects that they have sold a small quantity of tickets.

Haven’t they sold a lot of tickets? (or lots of)

(Yes, they have.)

The speaker expects that they have sold a large quantity of tickets.

Isn’t there much food left?

(No, there isn’t.)

The speaker expects that there is a small quantity of food left.

Isn’t there a lot of food left? (or lots of)

(Yes, there is.)

The speaker expects that there is a large quantity of food left.

Much, many, a lot, lots: without a noun

We usually leave out the noun after much, many and a lot, lots when the noun is obvious:

A:

Would you like some cheese?

B:

Yes please but not too much. (not too much cheese)

A:

Can you pass me some envelopes?

B:

How many? (how many envelopes?)

A:

How many people came?

B:

A lot. (or Lots.)

Much with comparative adjectives and adverbs: much older, much faster

We can use much before comparative adjectives and adverbs to make a stronger comparison:

Sometimes the prices in the local shop are much better than the supermarket’s prices.

I feel much calmer now I know she’s safe. (much calmer than I felt before)

She’s walking much more slowly since her operation. (much more slowly than before)

Too much, too many and so much, so many

Too much, too many with a noun

We often use too before much and many. It means ‘more than necessary’. We can use too much before an uncountable noun and too many before a plural noun, or without a noun when the noun is obvious:

I bought too much food. We had to throw some of it away.

They had a lot of work to do. Too much. (too much work)

There are too many cars on the road. More people should use public transport.

There are 35 children in each class. It’s too many. (too many children)

So much, so many with a noun

We use so rather than very before much and many in affirmative clauses to emphasise a very large quantity of something:

He has so much money!

Not: He has very much money!

There were so many jobs to do.

As much as, as many as

When we want to make comparisons connected with quantity, we use as much as and as many as:

Try and find out as much information as you can.

You can ask as many questions as you want.

Much, many and a lot of, lots of: typical errors

  • We use much with uncountable nouns and many with countable nouns:

It doesn’t need much effort.

Not: It doesn’t need many effort.

  • We usually use a lot of and lots of rather than much and many in informal affirmative clauses:

There are a lot of monuments and a lot of historic buildings in Rome.

Not: There are many monuments and many historic buildings in Rome.

She gave me a lot of information.

Not: She gave me much information.

  • We don’t use of after much or many when they come immediately before a noun without an article (a/an, the), demonstrative (this, that), possessive (my, your) or pronoun (him, them):

They haven’t made many friends here.

Not: They haven’t made many of friends here.

  • We don’t use a lot of without a noun:

A:

Do many people work in your building?

B:

Yes. Quite a lot. (quite a lot of people)

Not: Quite a lot of.

(“Much, many, a lot of, lots of : quantifiers” from English Grammar Today © Cambridge University Press. Need grammar practice? Try English Grammar Today with Workbook.)
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