What would our English classes be without learning how to use the Quantifiers correctly? A lot, many, much, (a) few, (a) little, hmmmm…so many choices, how do we know when to use each one? Let’s look at them together:
A lot can pretty much be used with any noun (and most verbs, too, for that matter), to express a large quantity:
You have a lot of patience.
We don’t have a lot of apples.
My friend talks a lot.
Note that when followed by a noun, the preposition of is necessary as well.
Many and much, however, although they also express a large quantity, are used with different types of nouns. Many is used for countable nouns and much for uncountable nouns. If you don’t remember the difference between these two noun categories, please check the blog entry for Countable and Uncountable nouns in English.
My grandmother has many chickens.
Maria didn’t put much sugar in the cake.
You can choose between using much/many or a lot as you like, the only difference being that much/many are slightly more formal than a lot.
(A) FEW/(A) LITTLE
(A) few and (A) little are the opposites of many/much expressing a small quantity, and they are also used with different types of nouns. (A) few is used for countable nouns and (A) little for uncountable nouns. If you don’t remember the difference between these two noun categories, please check the blog entry for Countable and Uncountable nouns in English.
The school has (a) few students.
There is (a) little money left.
SO, what is the difference between a few and few, and a little and little?
Basically, when you say “He ate a few cookies”, you are focusing on the positive, meaning He did eat a small number of cookies.
When you say “He ate few cookies”, you are focusing on the negative, meaning He didn’t eat so many cookies at all, not as many as expected, etc.
The same goes for “I have a little respect for him”, which focuses on the positive and means I have some respect for him.
And “I have little respect for him”, which focuses on the negative and means I don’t have much respect for him at all.
Choose between much, many, a lot, few, little, a few, a little:
- The teacher gives _______ of homework.
- Your car has __________ miles on it. (large quantity)
- I can give you _________ apples. (small quantity, positive)
- My boss doesn’t have _________ time to waste. (large quantity)
- She has _________ interest in outdoor activities. (small quantity, negative)
- His mom will borrow __________ flour from us. (small quantity, positive)
- This widow had ________ friends and many enemies. (small quantity, negative)
- a lot
- a few
- a little