Quantifiers

Quantifiers or Quantitatives are a type of determiners that are used with nouns. In this lesson, we will discover their uses, rules, and more in detail.

Quantifiers  in the English Grammar

What are Quantifiers?

Quantifiers are words or phrases that are used to indicate the quantity or amount of a noun or pronoun in a sentence. They provide information about whether the noun or pronoun is singular or plural, specific or general, and definite or indefinite.

Quantitatives: Types

Quantifiers can be categorized into three groups:

  1. Quantifiers used only with countable nouns
  2. Quantifiers used only with uncountable nouns
  3. Quantifiers used with both countable and uncountable nouns

Quantitatives: Group I

The following is a list of quantitatives that can only be used with countable nouns:

Many

'Many' is used to refer to a large number of a countable noun. It is commonly used in questions and in negative sentences. For example:

I don't have many friends.

Were there many children at the party?

Every and Each

'Each' and 'every' are determiners. They have similar meanings and are used with a singular countable noun.

Each member of the team is given a particular job to do.

Every member of the team is given a particular job to do.

Either, Neither and Both

We use 'both, either and neither' when we are talking about two people or things. As a determiner, 'either/neither' come before singular countable nouns, and 'both' comes before a plural countable noun. Pay attention to the examples:

Either answer is right.

Neither answer is right.

Both answers are right.

Few, a Few

'Few' and 'a few' are quantitatives that mean 'some'. We use them with plural countable nouns. For example:

We stayed a few days in Berlin.

Few cities in Europe can match the cultural richness of Berlin.

Tip!

There is a subtle difference between 'few' and 'a few'. While 'a few' is a positive or neutral term that indicates a small but sufficient quantity or degree, 'few' is a negative term that indicates a low and insufficient quantity or degree.

Several

'Several' means 'more than one, but less than a lot'. It is normally not used in negative or interrogative structures, only in affirmative statements. For example:

I've read "Gone with the Wind" several times.

Several children are playing a game.

suing "some" with countable nouns

Quantitatives: Group II

Some quantitatives can only be used with uncountable nouns:

Take a look at some examples:

I'd like to drink a little wine.

Can I have a bit more sugar in my coffee, please?

Much

'Much' is used before uncountable nouns to indicate a large amount or degree. It is mainly used in questions and negative sentences, and can sound formal in positive statements unless it is used after 'too' or 'so'.

I don't have much money.

Do you have much free time?

You've used too much salt.

A Bit

'A bit (of)' can be used to refer to both abstract and concrete things. It is an informal alternative for 'some', 'a piece of', or 'pieces of'.

Do you need a bit of help with that?

Little, a Little

'(A) little' means 'some, but not a lot'.It is typically used before uncountable nouns. For example:

I still have a little milk left.

There is little chance of success.

Tip!

The difference between 'few' and 'a few' also applies to 'little' and 'a little'. While 'a little' is a positive or neutral term that indicates a small but sufficient amount, 'little' is a negative term that indicates a low and insufficient amount.

A Good/Great Deal

'A great deal of/a good deal of' are used particularly with abstract nouns. For example:

The trip cost us a great deal of money.

I spent a good deal of time cleaning the apartment.

Less

We use 'less' on its own with singular uncountable nouns. Take a look at an example:

Doctors recommend eating less salt.

Quantitatives: Group III

The following is a list of quantifiers that can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns:

Take a look at some examples:

Like most students, I try not to stay up late on a school night.

I eat a lot of vegetables.

All

'All' as a determiner means 'the complete number or amount' of something. 'All' can be used before a countable or an uncountable noun. It can also be used before articles, possessives, demonstratives and numbers.

I'd given up all hope of winning the contest.

Someone has taken all my books!

Some, Any, and No

The quantifiers 'some', 'any', and 'no' are determiners. 'Some' is mostly used in affirmative clauses. 'Any' is common in negative clauses and questions, but when we expect the answer to be 'yes' we can use 'some'.
The determiner 'no' is always used in affirmative sentences. Do not use it in a negative sentence. Take a look at some examples:

We need some apples for this recipe.

Have you got any money?

There's no food left in the fridge.

More

We can use 'more' with plural countable nouns and uncountable nouns. For example:

We need five more chairs.

More people are buying new cellphones than ever before.

A Lot of, Lots of

'A lot of' and 'lots of' are used with plural countable nouns and with uncountable nouns in affirmatives, negatives, and questions. For example:

I've got lots of things to do.

I don't have a lot of time.

Enough

'Enough' can be used before uncountable and plural countable nouns as a determiner. Look at some examples:

There aren't enough apples to make a pie.

There isn't enough time.

Most

We use the quantifier 'most' to talk about quantities. We can use it with plural countable nouns and uncountable nouns as a determiner. For example:

She comes home late most nights.

Most tap water is drinkable.

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