A FEW, FEW, A LOT, LOTS, A LITTLE

,
LITTLE, MANY, MUCH, NO AND PLENTY
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Examples:
• There are a few plums. I don’t think we need to buy any
today.
• There are few cherries; we’d better go and buy some.
• There’s a little time left. (= We still have enough time
left.)
• There’s little time left. (= We do not have enough time
left.)

A few and few are used with plural nouns; a little and little,
with uncountable ones. If we leave out the a, it means that there
is not enough of something; but if we kept it, it has a positive
sense, ie there is/are not a lot, but enough for our own purposes.
Little and few can be emphasized by very:
• There are very few cherries.
• There’s very little time left.
If we put little before countable nouns, it means small:
• a little child/a small child.
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Examples:
• We didn’t hunt many deer/a lot of deer.
• Have you got many ring doughnuts/a lot of ring doughnuts?
• I’ve got a lot of safety pins.
• He doesn’t get much money/a lot of money in his present job.
• Was there much traffic/a lot of traffic?
• There is a lot of coal.

Many and much are mostly found in interrogative and negative
sentences.
In the affirmative, we use a lot of. We can replace a lot of
with lots of or plenty of:
• I’ve got a lot of /lots of/plenty of safety pins
• There’s a lot of/lots of/plenty of coal.
Of must be dropped if we do not mention the noun:
• I’ve got a lot/lots/plenty.
• There’s a lot/lots/plenty.
Many goes with plural nouns; much, with uncountable ones. As
regards a lot (of), it does not matter whether we use it with
plural or uncountable words.
A lot (of) may also be possible in the negative and in the
interrogative, but it suggests a bigger quantity than many and
much. For instance, if we say
He has bought twenty cans of coke: he did not have many (cans of
coke)/much (coke), it carries the idea that he needed some more,
so he has bought some.
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However, He has bought twenty cans of coke: he did not have a
lot implies that he wanted to have a lot, which is why he has
bought them. Let us put another example:
• She didn’t gain much experience. (She gained very little
experience.)
• She didn’t gain a lot of experience. (She learnt something
from it.)
In formal contexts, much and many are found in the affirmative
when they are part of the subject:
• Much salt is not very good for the human body.
• Many women were at the demonstration.
Many might be used as part of an object:
• I have many foldings chairs.
• You have seen many films!
Much may also modify past participles used as adjectives:
• He was (very) much impressed by/with what she had done for
him.
• He was very happy. (Happy is a mere adjective, so much is not
possible.)
Very much can also be used before some adjectives:
• She was very much afraid of the jungle.
The meaning of not many and not much is similar to
expressed by (very) few and (very) little, respectively:
• There aren’t many traffic cones/There are (very) few
cones.
• We haven’t got much jam/We’ve got (very) little jam.
The only difference between the four sentences above
the ones with (very) few and (very) little connote a
quantity.
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the one
traffic

is that
smaller

Examples:
• Many of her friends/Many of them live abroad.
• Much of the work/Much of it was done by me.
• We haven’t got many (cartons of milk)/a lot.
• There isn’t much (flour)/a lot.
• There are no tigers in this country.

If we have a pronoun or a determiner plus a noun after many or
much, we need of, as in first and second examples above. Many and
much can be used alone, as in the third and fourth instances. The
same is true of (a) few and (a) little:
• (Only) a few of us stayed here.
• (Only) a few stayed here.
• (Very) few of them realised what was going on.
• (Very) few can survive its attack.
• I drank (only) a little of that water.
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‘Would you like to have some cheese?’
‘Yes, (only) a little.’
I remember (very) little of what he told me.
I know (very) little about politics.

No + a noun means that there is not or there are not any.
4 Revision exercise.
a You bought __________ cooked ham for all these sandwiches. Go
and get some more!
b There are __________ beetles here. We’d better go and buy some
pesticide.
c We have __________ eggs left. I’ve just opened the fridge, and
there aren’t any.
d __________ people go to Catalonia for their holidays.
e Not __________ people are in favour of violence.
f There isn’t __________ insecticide left. We’d better go and buy
some.
g Have you brought __________ sugar? We need a lot!
h __________ supporters think that he should resign from the
team, as he isn’t doing very well.
i We need ten packets of chewing gum, and you’ve brought only
five. There are __________ (of them).
j If you haven’t got enough quince jelly, you say that you have
__________.
k There’s __________ bread in the bag. It’s empty!
l He was __________ admired by his comrades. (= His comrades
admired him a lot.)
m He was __________ aware of this fact. (= He knew about this
fact very well.)
n ‘How much coffee do we need?’
‘Not __________.’
o We’re late for sure. You still haven’t had a shower or made up.
We’ve got __________ time left, so hurry up, please!
p We have __________ petrol. (= We have run out.)
q ‘Do you think __________ candidates will be turned down for the
post?’
‘I don’t think they’ll turn __________ down. I reckon they’ll
employ most
of them.’
r Only __________ us will get the job. (positive sense)
s If they had drunk almost everything, they would have left
__________.
t She’s got __________ clothes. She’s extremely rich, and likes
to dress well.
u We’ve got __________ cottage by the lake. (= We have not got a
cottage
by the lake.)
v We don’t grow __________ vegetables; only enough for our
personal consumption.
w __________ talk was given to this matter. They should have gone
straight to the point.
x My nephew can’t take any salt, so he puts __________ salt on
his dishes.
y I’m __________ tired because I haven’t been able to sleep
__________ at night lately.
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z She’s not fit because she doesn’t take __________ exercise. She
should go jogging and cycling more often.
(4 a (very) little b a lot of/many c no d Many/A lot of e many/a lot of f much g a lot of h A
few/Many/A lot of i (very) few j (very) little k no l (very) much m very much n much/a lot o (very)
little p no q many/a lot of; many/a lot r a few of s (very) little t a lot of/many u no v many/a lot of w
Much/A lot of x no y very; (very) much z much)
____________________
We could also have said What she had done for him impressed him.
As you can see, ‘impressed’ still retains a verbal function.
Despite this, very is often found instead of (very) much when we
expressed how we feel about something or someone.
For this reason, very is possible in this sentence too, at
least informally:
• She was very impressed by/with what she had done for him.
Compare this sentence with the following, though:
• He was (very) much hated by/among(st) his men.
In this case, it is impossible to say He was very hated
by/among(st) his men, because ‘hated’ does not tell us how we
feel. In addition to this, it is regarded as a past participle,
rather than an adjective.
In the next sentence, very much is not correct: He was very
exhausted, since ‘exhausted’ is an adjective at the same level as
‘happy’, that is to say it has completely lost its verbal force,
and it is considered as a pure adjective.
We can conclude by saying that past participles and adjectives
that still retain their verbal functions are generally modified by
(very) much, and not by very alone.
Compare these two sentences:
• He didn’t say much.
• He didn’t say very much.
The first sentence suggests that he did not give us enough
information. The second, that he did not used many words in his
speech. Note that He said much is incorrect, but He said very much
is correct. In sentences like these, much is only possible in the
negative and in the interrogative:
• You didn’t eat much.
• Did you eat much?
In the affirmative, we must use very much: You ate very much.
Note also: They paid me very little. Very little is an adverb
here. The opposite of very little is very much. See the previous
section.
It can also mean not a/one: There is no garage in the house. (=
There is not a garage in the house.)
(Miquel Molina i Diez / polseguera.org)

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