Many few/little a lot of/lots of

These words are referred to as quantifiers. They are situated before a noun or noun phrases and tell the listener, or reader, something about quantity. To understand when, and when not to use these, it is important to understand the difference between countable and non-countable nouns. If you are unfamiliar with countable and non-countable nouns I suggest you restudy this section.

Much and Many

Much and Many are used to express that there is a large quantity of something. Much and many are often used in questions and negative sentences. It is not so common in a positive sentence, however, they are used in positive sentences when reporting about something, or with so, as or too. In most other cases, lots and a lot of are used.
“Many” is used with countable nouns

In questions

  • Are there many fish in the tank?
  • Have many people arrived?

In Negative sentences

  • Mary does not know many words of English.
  • There are not many players on the team.

When reporting

  • There were many cars on the road
  • There are many people in the hospital

With “as”, “so” or “too”

  • He has as many books as Mary.
  • Mary has so many books.
  • Mary has too much money.

“Much” is used with uncountable nouns, and hence is a singular pronoun.

In questions

  • How much money do you have?
  • Has much of the water drained?

In Negative sentences

  • John does not know much English.
  • There is not much water in the jug.

When reporting

  • There was much rubbish on the road
  • There is much confusion about the use of much and many

With “as”, “so” or “too”

  • He has as much money as Mary.
  • Mary has so much money.
  • Mary has too much money.

Lots of, or a lot of

Lots of and a lot of are used with both countable and uncountable nouns and are much more adaptable than much or many. It is often thought of as a much more informal way of communication. The one place they are commonly accepted is in positive sentences. Lots of and a lot of are generally interchangeable.

  • Mary has a lot of / lots of friends.
  • There is a lot of / lots of water in the street.
  • I have a lot of / lots of time to get to the bus.
  • I saw a lot of / lots of people waiting for tickets.
  • She has a lot of / lots of money

A lot         

a lot means very often or very much. It is used as an adverb. It often comes at the end of a sentence and never before a noun.

  • I liked that movie a lot.
  • I study a lot.
  • He talks a lot.

Few vs. Little

We use “few” and “little” to suggest a small quantity. Few and little, act in the same way as many and much, but in the opposite.

Few is used with countable nouns

  • There are just a few players on the team.
  • Only a few people knew how to speak English

Little is used with uncountable nouns.

  • We have only a little money in the bank.
  • There is little time to catch the bus.

Few and little is usually use to show a positive meaning, whilst very few and very little have negative meanings.

  • He is poor because he has very little money.
  • They have very few choices in this store.

“Few” is also used to express “more than expected”

  • There are a few people in the shop
  • It took a few days to write the novel
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