Quantifiers are adjectives and also adjectival phrases that make up important part of English grammar. They convey the notion of quantity (hence the word “quantifiers”) without mentioning the exact number. The main difficulty arises due to the need of selecting different quantifiers for countable and uncountable nouns, though some of them work perfectly for both. How to avoid such grammatical blunders? Read on. This post will help you become close friends with English quantifiers.
Quantifiers for countable and uncountable nouns
When placing a quantifier before a noun answering the question “How many?”, select from these options:
- Few / a few: I saw a few students sitting on a bench.
- Several: I noticed several girls who looked like princesses.
- Many: Many years ago, when Margaret was a teenage girl, she fell in love with Mike.
- A (large/great/good) number of: Where did you buy such a great number of boxes?
- A couple of: I need a couple of new polka-dotted shirts.
Uncountable nouns, regarding which you ask “How much?”, require next quantifiers:
- Little / a little: There was little hope left for Julia.
- A bit of: Add a bit of cinnamon to your pastry in order to get a unique flavor.
- Much: Do we have much coffee left in this house?
- A great deal of: You put a great deal of cheese in this pizza!
- A large amount of: Where will you store such a large amount of flour?
Finally, here are the quantifiers to use with both types of nouns:
- No / not any / none: She has no courage OR She has no car.
- Some: Get me some sugar please OR Get me some pencils please.
- Any: I do not see any evidence here OR I do not see any shops here.
- A lot of / lots of: This is a lot of money! OR This is a lot of cakes!
- Plenty of: We need plenty of baking powder OR We need plenty of glasses.
Expressing attitude to quantity
This rule concerns quantifiers few / a few and little / a little. They imply not only the quantity itself, but also a speaker’s attitude to it. When you need to show your positive attitude (meaning that the quantity referred to is absolutely enough), you should use these adjectives with the indefinite article:
- I found a few interesting books in my local library.
- Will you get a little rest?
On the other hand, when the quantity is not enough, and a speaker would like to increase it, use few and little without the article:
- Mary had few friends in her town, which made the girl rather sad.
- I have little sugar, there is not enough of it even for one cup of tea.
Much and many
These two quantifiers are generally found in negative or interrogative sentences, while in affirmative ones it is more preferable to use a lot of / lots of. However, there is an exception. An affirmative sentence may contain much and many preceded by too or so, or you may find there many alone.
- Is there much dust on the backyard? BUT There is a lot of dust on the backyard OR There is so much dust on the backyard!
- Not many students are planning to travel this summer. OR A lot of students / many students / too many students are planning to travel this summer.
Some and any
Many people giving grammar advice will recommend you to take some in affirmative propositions and any in negative or interrogative ones. It is generally true, but you should not overlook certain nuances. Thus, some must be used in interrogative sentences where a person supposes the answer to be positive, including situations when you offer something or ask for something:
- Would you like me to buy you some fruit juice?
- Do you have some oranges? It seems to me I saw them yesterday on a window sill.
As for any, you should put it in interrogative sentences if you do not know what answer to expect:
- Do you know any upcoming events in London?
- Have you seen any strange people on your way home?
Finally, any helps form negative sentences. In this case the quantifier performs emphatic functions:
- Linda does not stick with any advice from her nearest and dearest.
- I did not expect to face any new difficulties in that project.
Such English quantifiers as many, much, few and little have comparative and superlative degrees. It enables to compare two quantities without any reference to exact numbers. Superlative degrees of quantifiers are not so common in everyday speech, but they, too, present part of English grammar. What forms do you need to make all these degrees? Here is the scheme:
- Many → more→ the most: I know many foreigners. → I know more foreigners than John does. → Jackie knows the most foreigners compared to us all.
- Much → more → the most: Do you have much cash on you? → You need more cash to buy this dessert. → You are the one among us to have the most cash on you.
- Few → fewer → the fewest: I know few French artists. → You know fewer French artists that me. → What is the French city to have produced the fewest artists?
- Little → less → the least: Mary has little money to fly to New Zealand. → Being a student, Mary has less money than her parents. → Mary is the person to have the least money in the family.
When, comparing two quantities of a noun, you can understand the noun from the context, you can opt for omitting it in order to simplify the sentence:
- Budapest welcomes many tourists, but New York welcomes more.
- I have few sundresses in my wardrobe, while my sister has got even fewer.
Enough is a polysemantic word, and one of its meanings refers to the notion of quantity. When functioning as a quantifier, enough is placed before a noun of any type to indicate necessary or required quantity:
- I have had enough porridge this morning.
- Are there enough chairs for everybody?
- I will not have enough time until Tuesday.
The main information you should learn about English quantifiers is that they come directly before nouns and indicate the quantity. There exist specific quantifiers for countable and uncountable nouns, and also quantifiers to match them both. Moreover, these adjectives and adjectival phrases can report a speaker’s opinion to the quantity. We hope you liked this set of rules on quantifiers from Royal Editing. Learn grammar and edit your works together with us!