by Liz Walter
We often need to talk about amounts and numbers of things, but it is easy to make mistakes with some of the words we need to use. This post will give some useful ways of talking about large amounts or numbers of things and explain how to avoid some common errors.
We don’t have much water.
How many cups are there?
You can read more about countable and uncountable nouns here.
We use much and many in negative sentences and questions, as in the examples above. We also use them in positive sentences after too:
I have too much work to do.
There are too many people here.
However, we hardly ever use much in positive statements:
He gave me much rice.
We sometimes use many in positive statements, but it sounds slightly formal:
He visited many countries.
He gave me a lot of rice.
He visited lots of countries.
To answer the question How much/many . . . ? you can say lots or a lot. Do not use much or many as an answer.
‘How many whales did you see?’ ‘Lots./A lot.’
‘How many whales did you see?’ ‘Many.’
Note that we usually talk about a large number/amount of something and not ‘a big number/amount’ of something:
She owns a large number of paintings.
She owns a big number of paintings.
There were loads of animals in the field.
They gave us tons of food.
We had a whole bunch of problems.
Also rather informally, we use hundreds, thousands, millions, etc. to indicate large numbers:
‘How many times have you been on a plane?’ ‘Thousands.’
Remember to add of before a plural noun:
She’s been in hundreds of movies.
This post has been about large amounts: look out for the next one which continues the theme by explaining how to talk about small amounts.