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Teachers' blog


【Countable and Uncountable (part 3): Many and Much, Less, and Fewer】

(Contributed by Ben)
I’ve written a few posts recently about countable and uncountable nouns. The choice of these words often depends on whether or not your noun is plural or uncountable.
1. ‘MANY’, ‘MUCH’ and ‘A LOT’
‘Many’ always needs a plural. Always, even if it’s ‘how many’ or ‘too many’.
‘Much’ always goes with an uncountable noun (for instance ‘too much stuff’ or ‘how much money’).
However, ‘much’ isn’t really used in the same way as ‘many’. You could say ‘I have a lot of money’, but you wouldn’t say ‘I have much money’. ‘Much’ is more often used in questions (‘do you have much money?’) and with negatives (‘I didn’t have much money). ‘A lot of’ can go with plurals OR uncountable nouns.
2. ‘LESS’, ‘FEW’ and ‘FEWER’
‘Less’ goes with uncountable nouns (‘less money’, ‘I paid less attention in the second class’). ‘Few’ goes with countable things. Be careful with the slight difference between ‘few’ and ‘a few’: ‘I ate few eggs’ emphasises that there were almost none, but ‘I ate A few eggs’ is more positive, and emphasises that it was more than one.
And then there’s ‘fewer’. There are a few different opinions on ‘fewer’. If you try to be 100% accurate in your English, you should use ‘less’ with uncountable nouns and ‘fewer’ with countable nouns: ‘less stuff’, ‘fewer things’, ‘less cake’, ‘fewer cakes’. However, a lot of native speakers don’t care, and use ‘less’ for everything: ‘less stuff’, ‘less things’, ‘less cake’ and ‘less cakes’. Some people have strong opinions about this, but it doesn’t really matter.

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