LEOLEO: Literacy Education Online

Words That Confuse


Many/MuchFew/LessFew / A few /
A few of / Few of the
A Lot

Many/Much

Many is used with a noun that names things that we can count: count nouns.

Much is used to describe things that we do not count: noncount nouns.

Many (count/plural)
Much (noncount/singular)
Many manuscripts areMuch talk is
Many vehicles areMuch controversy is
Many authors areMuch criticism is

Some nouns can be either count or noncount, depending on their use:


Few/Less

Few is used in the same way as many, with count nouns.

Less is used just as much, with noncount nouns.

Few (count/plural)
Less (noncount/singular)
Few rivers areLess water is
Few students areLess money is
Few laws areLess crime is

Again, the context of the sentence will change the meaning at times:

Example
Meaning
Food Few foods are as rich as ice cream.Countable meaning
Health-conscious people eat less food that is deep-fried. Noncountable meaning
Crime
Few crimes are committed at high noon. Countable meaning
Having a good police force will result in less crime. Noncountable meaning


Few / A few / A few of the / Few of the

These words follow idiomatic patterns, but the connotation changes.

A few and a few of the focus on the number of students, implying that some students did something (positive meaning). Few and few of the focus on the low percentage of students who did something (negative meaning).

POSITIVE MEANING
A few students chose the take-home test.
A few of the students want to be lawyers.

NEGATIVE MEANING
Few students approve of the decision.
Few of the students decided to transfer.


A lot

The words a lot must be written as two words. The phrase has the same meaning as both many and much and can be interchanged with either one.

A lot is followed by of when the meaning is general or by of the when the meaning is specific:

Example
Meaning
PeopleA lot of people have done research on discrimination practices among employers.General meaning
A lot of the people at the meeting disagree with the market strategy presented.Specific meaning
MoneyA lot of money is spent on the battle against AIDS.General meaning
The committee used a lot of the money surveying the population.Specific meaning

Sometimes, a lot can also end a sentence, but it is considered an informal expression:

We laughed a lot.

The budget for the universities in the state of Minnesota has grown a lot.


© 1997, 1998, 1999 The Write Place

LEO: Literacy Education Online

The print handout was revised and then redesigned for the Web by Maggie Escalas for the Write Place, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, Minnesota, and may be copied for educational purposes only. If you copy this document, please include our copyright notice and the name of the writer; if you revise it, please add your name to the list of writers.

Last update: 5 October 1999

URL: http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/grammar/muchfew.html