Most importantly, depending on the noun used in a sentence, ‘quantifiers’ are used to give information about the number of something: how much or how many. It can be a word (or phrase); generally used before a noun (or noun phrase). Some of the common quantifiers used in English are: much, many, little, few, a lot and plenty. Quantifiers can be quite confusing if the concept is not clear. The following article will surely help in busting some myths.

First, ‘much’ and ‘little’ are used with uncountable nouns, such as knowledge, luck, energy, time, money, furniture, information, advice, etc. Owing to this rule, it is essential to note that we use ‘much’ especially in negative sentences in spoken English. For example, ‘We didn’t use much money on shopping.’ or ‘I don’t have much energy left to cook dinner.’ Logically, it would be incorrect to say, ‘We spent much money on shopping.’ or ‘I have much energy to cook dinner.’ In fact, ‘too much’ or ‘so much’ can be used in a positive sentence as in ‘We spend too much money.’ or ‘There is too much traffic nowadays.’ On the other hand, ‘many’ and ‘few’ are used with plural nouns like friends, people, men, countries, etc. In addition, the quantifier ‘a lot’ or ‘lots of’ can be used irrespective of the noun used. You can say, ‘I like to drink a lot of milk before going to bed.’ or ‘She has a lot of friends.’ and it is more usual in positive sentences. Alternatively, ‘plenty of something’ can replace ‘a lot of/lots of something’ as the noun doesn’t matter. A sentence can be like either these, ‘I have plenty of work to do this weekend.’ or say, ‘She takes plenty of time to complete every task.’

English grammar

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English grammar

Second, it would be helpful to understand the difference in the idea conveyed between ‘a little’ and ‘little’. Many don’t get how the latter is used for negative ideas; not much of something. To illustrate, it is commonly said, ‘We must leave soon. There is little time.’ or a question asked, ‘Do you speak French?’ ‘Little.’ Other than that, you can also add ‘very’ in front of ‘little’. Likewise, just ‘few’ also denotes negative ideas. To give an example, ‘He is always lonely as he has few friends.’ or ‘I consider those lucky who have few well-wishers.’ Doubtless, ‘a little’ and ‘a few’ are for more positive ideas, such as ‘I have a little time to answer more questions.’ or ‘I wish to have a few days holiday soon.’ Furthermore, using ‘only’ with ‘a little’ and ‘a few’ give negative meaning. You can say, ‘You must hurry up, we’ve only got a little time.’ or ‘The area doesn’t seem safe as there are only a few houses.’

All in all, being careful in picking the right quantifier is indispensable for achieving grammar accuracy, plus it is worth doing more exercises on quantifiers and reading some more about using others. There are different websites which offer exercises and other material.

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