This week’s blog is about the words ‘many’ and ‘much’ and ‘few’ and ‘little’. These words often cause confusion because a lot of students have difficulty remembering when to use one or the other. We use ‘many’ and ‘few’ for things we can count, such as tables, chairs, people etc… We use ‘much’ and ‘little’ for things we can’t count, such as milk, money, salt etc… For example we say “I have many books in my bag” or “they have few pens; only two”. We say “do you drink much water”? or “we have little free time”.
The comparative form of ‘many’ and ‘much’ is ‘more than’. We can say “they have more pencils than pens in the pencil case”. We can also say “I drink more coffee than tea”. As you can see from these two examples, although pens and pencils are countable and coffee and tea are uncountable, we use ‘more than’ for both. The superlative form of ‘many’ and ‘much’ is ‘the most’. For example I can say “he has the most coins of all the group”, or I can say “of these three foods; bread, fish and pepper, I eat bread the most”. Again as with comparatives, the superlatives of ‘many’ and ‘much’ are the same; ‘the most’. It doesn’t matter that one is countable and the other is uncountable.
The comparative form of ‘few’ is ‘fewer than’. Remember, we use a comparative when we are comparing two people or two things. For example we say “they have fewer apples in their basket than oranges or “he reads fewer books than me”. The comparative form of ‘little’ is ‘less than’. For example we say “there is less salt on my food than pepper” or “I put less milk in my coffee than you”.
The superlative of few is ‘the fewest’. Remember, we use a superlative when we are comparing more than two people or two things. For example we say “of these three cities, Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia, Valencia has the fewest people” or ” of all the students in the class, he reads the fewest books”. The superlative of little is ‘the least’. For example we say “of these three cups, this cup contains the least tea” or “he puts the least butter on his bread, of all the children in the class”.
Instead of ‘many’ and ‘much’ we can say ‘a lot of’ or ‘lots of’. These two expressions can be used with both countable nouns and uncountable nouns. For example we say “he has a lot of money in his pocket” or “we have lots of milk in the fridge”. We can also say “I have a lot of friends” or “there were lots of people at the party last night”. Although milk and money are uncountable whereas friends and people are countable, we use ‘a lot of’ or ‘lots of’ for both.
Usually in a positive sentence we say ‘a lot of’ or ‘lots of’ instead of much. For example we don’t say “I drink much water”, we say “I drink a lot of water” or “I drink lots of water”.
Try the practice exercises!
Ven a conocer la escuela y haz una prueba de inglés gratuita
- “Easily Confused Words (Third Part)”
- “The use of the present simple”
- “The Past Simple and The Past Continuous”
- “The Emphatic Do”