Express Quantity in English for Beginning Speakers

Hands holding a bunch of strawberries.


There are many phrases used to express quantities and amounts in English. In general, "much" and "many" are the standard quantifiers used to express large quantities. Which expression you use will often depend on whether the noun is countable or uncountable, and whether the sentence is negative or positive.

While "much" and "many" are among the most common, the following expressions are often used in place of "much" and "many," especially in positive sentences:

  • A lot of
  • Lots of
  • Plenty of
  • A great deal of
  • A large number of

These expressions can are combined with "of" in the sense of "most," "many," or "much."

A lot of people enjoy listening to jazz.
A great deal of time is spent understanding these issues.

But note that "much," "most," and "many" do not take "of."

Most people enjoy listening to some type of music. Not: Most of people...
Much time is spent understanding math. Not: Much of time is spent ...


"Much" is used with uncountable nouns:

There is much interest in learning English around the world.
How much money do you have?
There isn't much butter left in the refrigerator.

"Much" is used in negative sentences and questions, too:

How much money do you have?
There isn't much rice left.

Note that "much" is rarely used in the positive form. English speakers generally use "a lot of" or "lots of" with uncountable nouns.

We have a lot of time. Not: We have much time.
There is a lot of wine in the bottle. Not: There is much wine in the bottle.


"Many" is used with countable nouns:

How many people came to the party?
There aren't many apples on the table.

Note that "many" is used in the positive form, unlike "much:" 

Andrew has a lot of friends / Andrew has many friends.
A lot of my friends live in New York / Many of my friends live in New York.

A Lot of / Lots of / Plenty Of

"A lot of" and "lots of" can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns. "A lot of" and "lots of" are used in positive sentences:

There is a lot of water in that jar.
He's got lots of friends in London.

Note that generally speaking, "lots of" sounds less formal than "a lot of." 

A Little / A Few

"A little" and "a few" indicate a quantity or number.

Use "a little" with uncountable nouns:

There is a little wine in that bottle. 
There is a little sugar in my coffee.

Use "a few" with countable nouns.

He has a few friends in New York.
We bought a few sandwiches on our way to the park.

Little / Few

"Little" and "few" indicate a limited quantity.

Use "little" with uncountable nouns:

I have little money to spend.
She found little time for work.

Use "few" with countable nouns:

He has few students in his class. 
Jack finds few reasons to stay.


Use "some" in positive sentences when there is neither a lot nor a little.

"Some" can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns.

We have some friends who work in Los Angeles. 
I've saved some money to spend on vacation this summer. 

Any (Questions)

Use "any" in questions to ask if someone has something.

"Any" can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns:

Do you have any friends in San Francisco?
Is there any pasta left? 

Note that when offering or requesting something use "some" instead of "any" for polite questions.

Would you like some shrimp? (offer)
Would you lend me some money? (request)

Any (Negative Sentences)

Use "any" with countable and uncountable nouns in negative sentences to state that something doesn't exist.

We won't have any time for shopping today.
They didn't have any problems finding our house. 


Use "enough" with countable and uncountable nouns to state that you are satisfied with the amount of something.

She has enough time to visit her friends in Dallas.
I think we have enough hamburgers for tomorrow's grill. 

Not Enough

Use "not enough" when you are not satisfied with the amount of something.

I'm afraid there's not enough time to continue this conversation.
There are not enough people working at the moment. 

Each / Every

Use "each" or "every" when referring to the individuals in a group.

I think every person in this room would agree with me.
I'm sure each step of this process is important. 

Large / Big / Vast / Huge Amount of

Use these adjectives with "amount of" with uncountable and countable nouns to express large quantities. This form is often used to exaggerate just how much there is.

There is a huge amount of work to be done to today.
Tom has a vast amount of knowledge about the subject. 

Tiny / Small / Minuscule Amount of 

Use these similar adjectives with "amount of" to express very small quantities. This form is often used in exaggeration to express how little there is of something. 

Peter has a small amount of patience, so don't joke around with him.
There is a minuscule amount of time left to register. Hurry up!