Much or Many? Quantifiers and Uncountable Nouns

We talked yesterday about the difference between countable and uncountable nouns.  Today, we’ll talk about how to use them with quantifiers.

Quantifiers are words and phrases that indicate the number or amount of the thing being referred to.  Sometimes you’re very specific – you have three apples or a gallon of water – but other times, you want to be more general.  In those cases, countable and uncountable nouns use different quantifiers, and it’s important to know which is which.

Let’s take our apples as an example of our countable noun, and our water as an example of our uncountable noun.  Let’s say we have plenty of both – too many, in fact.

For our countable nouns, we’d say we have too many apples – many is for nouns you can count.  100 apples would be too many.

For our uncountable nouns, we’d say we have too much water – much is for nouns you can’t count.  100 gallons of water would be too many gallons, and too much water.

On the other hand, maybe we don’t have enough apples or water.  Maybe we want to express that we need more.

You would have too few apples – few and many are both for countable nouns.

You would have too little apples – little and much are both for uncountable nouns.

Of course, you could always go with the phrase that works with both countable and uncountable nouns – “a lot of”.  You can have a lot of apples, or a lot of water, or not a lot of apples or water.  It’s an all-purpose catch all for countable and uncountable nouns.

That’s why it should be “ten items or fewer” at the supermarket, and not “ten items or less” – it’s all the difference between countable and uncountable nouns.  And now that you know the difference, you can make sure you’re following the rules, as well.

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