Monday, August 20, 2012

Quantifiers - talking about a lot and a little - many, much, little, few etc

many, much, most, a lot (of)

(a) little, (a) few, less, least, fewer, fewest

These words can be used both as determiners and as pronouns. Some of them can also be used as adverbs. When used as determiners, they are sometimes called degree determiners.
Practise using these words with lots of exercises.

Determiner or pronoun?

When they appear before a noun they are determiners; when they appear on their own they are usually regarded as pronouns. And some of them can also be adverbs.
  • I haven't much time - determiner
  • Do have any spare time? - Not much - pronoun
  • He likes her very much. - adverb

Many, much, a lot (of)

Exercise 1 - Remind yourself of the rules. Click on a word in the box, then on the appropriate gap.

countable   · formal   · informal   · negative   · positive   · questions   · uncountable   · comparatives
1. Many and a lot of are used with nouns.
2. Much and a lot of are used with nouns.
3. Many and much are mainly used in statements and .
4. While a lot of and lots of are more common in statements.
5. In positive statements many and much are seen as rather .
6. Lots of is more than a lot of.
7. We don't usually use very much before a noun in sentences.
8. But we often use much and many as adverbs with .

Exercise 2 - Underline the correct or most natural option. Click on an option to underline it.

1. There were an awful lot / lots of people I didn't know at the wedding.
2. She's had so much / many emails today that she hasn't time to read them all.
3. He got many / lots of presents for his birthday, lucky guy.
4. They've got so / too much money they don't know what to do with it all.
5. Have you seen lots / much of Peter lately?
6. I don't think much of this / of that weather!
7. Much of the / of Scotland was covered in snow yesterday.
8. I have a lot of / much admiration for him.
9. Many / A lot of my friends are lawyers.
10. There's a whole lot of / very much water on the kitchen floor.
11. You haven't eaten very much / lots .
12. There were just as a lot of / many people as there were last time.
13. How many / lots of times have you been to Brighton?
14. Gosh, I've eaten a lot of / very much food today.
15. I enjoyed that party much / a lot

A lot of, plenty of and other expressions with of.

Exercise 3 - Match the expressions with their uses. Click on an option in grey on the right, then on an appropriate box on the left..

  • pl = plural countable nouns
  • uc = singular uncountable nouns
1. a lot ofawith uc nouns - rather informal
2. lots ofbwith pl nouns - rather formal
3. plenty ofcwith pl/uc nouns - neutral
4. a great deal ofdwith pl/uc nouns - informal
5. a large number ofewith uc nouns - rather formal
6. a big amount offwith pl/uc nouns - suggests (more than) enough
7. a majority ofgwith pl nouns - a small quantity
8. a handful ofhusually with pl nouns - most

Exercise 4 - Plenty or a lot? Where appropriate enter plenty, otherwise use a lot

1. There's no hurry, we've got of time.
2. In this area, of people have been made unemployed recently.
3. They wasted of money building this white elephant.
4. I've read of articles that back me up on this.
5. This mechanical breakdown has caused us of problems.
6. We hadn't seen each other for ages, so we had to talk about.
7. There's more where that came from.
8. It's caused me of problems, I can tell you.
9. There are of eggs in the fridge if you want an omelette.
10. They call this the land of .

A few, few, a little, little

Exercise 5 - Remind yourself of the rules. Click on a word in the box, then on the appropriate gap.

countable   · enough   · exclamations   · far   · not enough   · not many   · not much   · questions   · quite   · too   · uncountable   · very  
1. Little, a little, less and least are use with nouns.
2. Few, a few, fewer and fewest are used with nouns.
3. A little and a few suggest that we have although not a lot.
4. Little and few suggest we have for us to be really happy.
5. We can say There were a few people. (positive)
6. But There were (a) few people. (not many at all)
7. Or There were few people. (not enough)
8. We can intensify that last one with .
9. We can say How few or How little in .
10. But we don't usually use How few or How little in .
11. A less formal way of saying little is .
12. A less formal way of saying few is .

Exercise 6 - Complete the sentences. Click on an expression in the box, then on the appropriate gap.

a few   · a little   · few   · few of   · little   · quite   · very   · too   · how
1. She's got friends and spends most of her time alone at home.
2. I've got money, why don't we go to the pub.
3. Do you have any crime novels? - Yes, I've got .
4. It's surpising few people know this.
5. There was little to start with.
6. A us are going to the cinema later on. Do you want to come?
7. How much money have you got on you? - Only , I'm afraid.
8. There's time before the film starts, so hurry up.
9. There are really good shows at the festival this year, so it's well worth going to.
10. Isn't that little for what we need?
11. Is there any olive oil left? - I think there's in that bottle.
12. I saw a few of my friends there.

fewer, (the) fewest, less, (the) least, (the) most

Exercise 7 - Use your instinct to fill in the gaps. Click on a word in the box, then on the appropriate gap.

fewer   · least   · less   · most   · the least   · the most  
1. We sent out Christmas cards this year than last.
2. Farmers produced rice this year than last year.
3. Of all my cousins I Peter talks .
4. It weighs than two kilos.
5. Not at all. It was I could do in the circumstances.
6. They say that popular music to relax to is classical music.
7. The whole thing came to than twenty pounds.
8. The others are all dearer; this is expensive.
9. There were people here than I expected there would be.
10. This one's really cheap. It costs a lot than the other one.
11. What you say is interesting. I'd love to hear more.
12. These things happen just when you are expecting it.
13. I tend to like types of seafood.
14. Spirits up! It's than five kilometres to go now.
15. That was delicious meal I've had in a long time.

Exercise 8 - Look back at the last exercise, and complete the rules. Click on an option to underline it.

1. We usually use fewer / less with countable nouns.
2. We always use fewer / less with uncountable nouns.
3. We use fewer / less when talking about distance, weight, time etc.
4. We use fewer / less after expressions like it measures ..., it weighs ... etc.
5. We use most / the most before a noun when we are talking about quantity.
6. We usually use most / the most when we are making a comparison.
7. Sometimes instead of very before an adjective, we say most / the most .
8. When used as a pronoun at the end of a sentence, we say most / the most .

Putting it all together

Exercise 9 - Underline the correct option. Click on an option to underline it.

1. Do you have much experience / many experiences in this type of work?
2. There wasn't much / many news about it on TV.
3. We've had a few troubles / little trouble with the machinery.
4. Do you have much luggage / many luggages with you?
5. We have little competition / few competitions for our products in this market.
6. We have seen few improvements / little improvement in his work, unfortunately.
7. I didn't see much / many police at the scene.
8. I drank one too many beers / much beer last night.
9. Did you have many interesting experiences / much interesting experience on holiday.
10. He has run a little business / few businesses in his time.
11. The new model features many improvements / much improvement over the old: better steering, more powerful engine and so on.
12. We were lucky to get so many publicities / much publicity for our product.
13. He's won a few competitions / a little competition in his time.
14. He has some / an extensive knowledge of computers.
15. There weren't many homeworks / wasn't much homework to do.

Exercise 10 - Each line has either a word missing or has one word extra. Enter the missing or extra word in the box.

Last night we went for meal at one of the many
of restaurants in the neighbourhood. It was busy as
there were a lots of people in town for a big conference.
Normally few of tourists come here, but last night was
an exception. The portions were huge and I ate far much.
There were quite few of use in our party, as we were
celebrating a friend's birthday. I haven't enjoyed myself much
for a long time. I'll tell you little about this restaurant.
Many of years ago it used to be a bakery, but this guy bought it.
He spent awful lot of time and money doing it up
and turned it into Thai restaurant and it soon became very popular
with the locals. We like going there much and try and visit
it least once a month. The service is really friendly and
the food is absolutely delicious. And most the time its very
reasonable priced. Many's time I wished we could go there more often..

Exercise 11 - Fill each of the numbered gaps with ONE suitable word.

ABC Metals are in a (1) of trouble at the moment. Admittedly (2) of the problem stems from the global economic crisis: ABC's clients have (3) money to spend than before, which means (4) orders for ABC products. Although there had been some warning signs, (5) commentators realised the magnitude of ABC's problems. Perhaps if they'd spent a little (6) time digging into the company's finances it might have been a (7) different, but (8) of them were blinded by the upbeat nature of the company's frequent press releases. To be fair, (9) few dogged journalists, a handful at (10) , did try to get behind the hype, but (11) of the financial press just took ABC at its word. For whatever reason, the public got to know (12) little of what was going on behind the scenes until very recently, by which time (13) of the damage had already been done.
But beyond the crisis, (14) of the blame must also be laid at the door of ABC's management team, many of (15) paid scant heed to the (16) warning sigals which must have been apparent. Warning signs which, even if most (17) the financial press had missed them, must have alerted at (18) some of the management team. Perhaps if they had paid (19) attention to their PR department and (20) to the figures they were getting from their own finance people, they might not be in such dire straits. The (21) information that is coming out of ABC, suggests that the management have at last woken up to the enormity of their situation, much of (22) is of their own making, and are now trying to (23) the most of a bad job. The (24) few weeks will tell whether they have succeeded in turning ABC's fortunes around, or have at (25) saved it from the liquidator.

Common expressions with much

Exercise 12 - Fill the gaps. Click on a word in the box, then on the appropriate gap.

as   · bit   · for   · in   · look   · miss   · of   · so   · to   · too   · up  
1. Oh look, the film's already started. I thought much.
2. Personally, I think Coke and Pepsi are much a muchness.
3. The bus takes about the same time as the tram. There's not much it.
4. I'll say this much him, he's very hard-working.
5. I don't feel to much today, I think I'll stay at home.
6. I'm not much a mechanic, I'm afraid.
7. It doesn't amount much, but I'll give you what I have.
8. So you noticed! You don't much, do you?
9. The house isn't much to at from the outside, but inside is amazing.
10. You can have much of a good thing, you know.
11. George Parr, you're an investment banker. - Very much , Yes.
12. He wants you to lie for him and say he's ill! That's a much, isn't it?

Other common expressions

Exercise 13 - Fill the gaps. Click on a word in the box, then on the appropriate gap.

any   · anyone   · between   · fat   · no   · number   · one   · part   · that   · words  
1. Good restaurants are few and far in this area.
2. I agree with you for the most .
3. There were thirty people there. - As many as !
4. He's late again! I'll have to a few with him.
5. It's as much as can do in the circumstances.
6. You look a bit hung over. You must have had too many last night.
7. You can find amount good cafés round here. We're spoilt for choice.
8. amount of complaining would make him change his mind.
9. A lot of good that's going to do you!
10. There are any of reasons why this isn't going to work.

Exercise 14 - Fill the gaps. Click on a word in the box, then on the appropriate gap.

at   · bit   · desired   · good   · in   · make   · mind   · nerve   · take   · time  
1. Doesn't this extremely hot weather a lot out of you?
2. It'll take us ten minutes (the) most. Definitely no longer.
3. He's not in the least shy.
4. She's got a lot of asking me for money.
5. I've still got a few years before I retire.
6. He's been there many a .
7. This so-called gourmet chicken leaves a lot to be .
8. We'll just have to the most of a bad job.
9. I've got a lot on my at the moment.
10. Do you mind helping me with this? - No, not the least.

Exercise 15 - Fill the gaps. Click on a word in the box, then on the appropriate gap.

awful   · better   · called   · cooks   · does   · moons   · precious   · said   · the   · true  
1. Come on. We've got little time left
2. There's an lot of noise coming from next door.
3. Many's time I've thought about it.
4. Little he know what's in store for him.
5. I knew him once, but that was many ago.
6. You know what they say, too many spoil the broth. (idiom)
7. There's a lot to be for booking your holiday early.
8. Many a word is spoken in jest. (proverb)
9. Many are but few are chosen (The New Testament)
10. The less said about this the .

Final word - Ten items or less

As you know, we use fewer with countable nouns, and less with uncountables. Or at least that's the theory. What your course books probably don't tell you is that while we never use fewer with uncountables, many of us sometime use less with countables. In informal language, at least. My first instinct is probably to say: 'There were less people on the buses today'. Then, depending on where I am or who I'm with, I might change it to fewer.
Attitudes to this practice vary. Burchfield in the New Fowler's Modern English Usage calls it 'regrettable', although admitting it is prevalent among some standard speakers. The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary says:
'People often use less with countable nouns: There were less cars on the road then. This is not considered correct by some people, and fewer should be used instead.'
On the other hand, Michael Swan in Practical English Usage points out that:
'less is quite common before countable nouns as well as uncountables, especially in an informal style. Some people consider this incorrect - I've got less problems than I used to have.
The Advanced version of the Grammar in Use series says:
'Nowadays, many people use less rather than fewer with plural countable nouns - There were less (or fewer) than 20 students at the lecture. But some people think this is incorrect, especially in formal English.'
The wonderful Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage (MWDEU) shows that this use of less with countable nouns goes back a thousand years. It is used especially in such constructions as 'no less than' (no less than 300 people / five occasions / fifty books etc) and 'or less' (twenty five words or less, ten items or less)
The last, ten items or less, is common on signs at the fast checkout in supermarkets, and most of us find nothing wrong with it. In fact MWDEU even suggests it is preferable to ten items or fewer. (The latter may be 'correct' but it doesn't sound very natural to me.) However, ten items or less seems to annoy the hell out of some people, to the extent that the British supermarket chain Tesco's felt obliged to change their notices to something more innocuous. Result - Grammar Police 1, Common sense 0.
In fact this differentiation between fewer and less seems to date back only to 1770, and seems to have been based on the whim of a certain Mr Baker. Not a few of our so-called rules seem to have arisen in a similar fashion.
However this is really a case of 'Don't do as I do, do as I teach'. As MWDEU says, native speakers will know instinctively how far they can bend the rules; for learners it's not so simple. So you are best to stick with the following:
  1. Use fewer with most countable nouns (but see 3)
  2. With uncountable nouns, always use less.
  3. Use less with countable nouns indicating amount, distance, weight, time, money etc - Less than three miles / four kilos / five minutes / ten euros
  4. Use less after one - There'll be one less person for dinner.
  5. Use less in mathematics - 2 times 4 is less than 3 plus 4.
  6. The construction or less is more natural than or fewer - whatever the pedants say.
  7. Don't be shocked if a native speaker says less people, less onions etc, it doesn't mean they're ignorant, just normal.



  1. Hi! I am wondering if the 'time' in Ex.2 Q 13: How many time have you been to Brighton? should be 'times' or if 'time' is also correct?

  2. @jadecheung101 - no, sorry, that was my mistake - it should be times, and I've now corrected it. Thanks for pointing it out.