For VOA Learning English, this is Everyday Grammar.
Today we are going to talk about different ways of expressing quantity in English.
A quantifier is a word or number that shows an amount or number. You probably already know how to use common quantifiers like muchand many. For example:
How many apples would you like?
How much fruit would you like?
The quantifier many is used before apples, which is a count noun. Muchis used before fruit, a noncount noun.
Make sure you understand the difference between count nouns and noncount nouns before you study quantifiers. You can learn about count and noncount nouns in last week’s episode of Everyday Grammar.
Quantifiers are adjectives and adjective phrases that go before nouns. They give information about how muchor how manyof an item you are talking about. Some quantifiers, like many,go only before count nouns. Others, like much,go only before noncount nouns. And a few quantifiers can go before count or noncount nouns.
Quantifiers only used with count nouns
One, each and everyare examples of count noun quantifiers.
Here are some examples:
One movie that I enjoy is “The Godfather.”
Each child is special.
Every member of the country club is rich.
With plural count nouns, just add of thebetween the quantifier and the noun it describes.
One of theboys is from China.
Each of thecars has air conditioning.
Every one of thestudents is smart.
Notice that boys, carsand studentsare plural nouns. But the verbs that follow them are singular. In most situations, one, each and everymake the subject singular, even if the subject contains a plural noun.
This tricky rule confuses native speakers and English learners alike.
There are a few quantifiers related to the number two. You can say I have two shoes, I have a couple of shoes, I have both shoes, and I have a pair of shoes.
If you have more than two countable items, you can use several, a few, many and a number of.
I have several assignmentsdue this week.
There are a fewThai restaurants in my town.
There are manyways to practice English.
A number of the cars are imported.
Quantifiers only used with noncount nouns
Now let’s move on to quantifiers that only work with noncount nouns: a little, much and a great deal of. Here are some examples:
Could you loan me a littlemoney?
The old woman has much wisdom to share.
There is a great deal of oil in Saudi Arabia.
Littlecan go before a count noun if it is used as an adjective. For example, “The little boy is playing.” In this example, littledoes not refer to a number or quantity; it refers to the size of the boy.
Quantifers used with both count and noncount nouns
There are several “safe” quantifiers that can go with both count and noncount nouns. Someis the most popular. Most, plenty of, all and any are other options. Listen for the quantifiers in these examples:
He cut somewood. (noncount noun)
Most Americans speak English. (count noun)
I have plenty ofmoney. (noncount noun)
All children are special. (count noun)
Do you have anycoffee? (noncount noun)
To refer to theabsence or lack ofsomething, simply use nobefore a count or noncount noun.
There was norice left. (noncount noun)
There were nobooks in the library. (count noun)
She had nolove for her ex-husband. (noncount noun)
No, when used as a quantifier, has the same meaning as zero.
Lots and a lot ofare very popular quantifiers — maybe too popular. Some English teachers do not like them. They think that lots and a lot ofare overused and unsophisticated. You should avoid lots and a lot ofin formal writing. Native speakers usually shorten a lot of to “a lotta” in casual speech.
Few/a few vs. little/a little
Listen carefully to these two sentences:
I have a fewfriends.
I have fewfriends.
What is the difference? The first sentence contains the article a. This little word makes a big difference in meaning.
I have a few friends focuseson a positive idea. The speaker is satisfied with the number of friends he has. The second sentence, I have few friends, focuses on a negativeidea, his lack of friends. The speaker wishes he had more friends.
It might help to think offewas a half-empty glass of water. A fewis like a half-filled glass of water. The amount of water is the same. But the speaker’s attitude about the amount of water is different. Few and a feware only used before count nouns.
The same positive-negative distinction applies to a little and little. Use littleand a littlebefore noncount nouns.
I have a little money means the speaker has some money.
I have little moneymeans the speaker does not have enough money.
Speaking of little, we have littletime left for today’s program. We hope you learned a few tips about how to use quantifiers.
I’m Jill Robbins.
And I’m John Russell.
[Aretha Franklin, “Respect”]
"All I’m asking is for a little respect when you come home
Just a little bit
Just a little bit
Just a little bit..."
Words in This Story
quantifier– grammatical term.a determiner or pronoun indicative of quantity (e.g., all, both )
count noun- grammatical term. a noun (such as “sand” or “butter”) that refers to something that cannot be counted
noncount noun- grammatical term. a noun that can form a plural and, in the singular, can be used with the indefinite article
options – n.choices
assignment - n. a job or duty that is given to someone : a task someone is required to do
absence – n.a state or condition in which something expected, wanted, or looked for is not present or does not exist : a state or condition in which something is absent
unsophisticated- adj. not complicated or highly developed; basic
focus– v.to direct your attention or effort at something specific
negative - adj. harmful or bad : not wanted
positive – adj.good or useful
distinction– n.the quality that makes a person or thing special or different