Many or much? Few or little? Know what you can count.

531969_55075139Some things you can count but other ones you cannot.
That’s the reason you have to be careful when using “many” or “much”, for instance. Let me make it clear: some words can only be used with things you can relate to a quantity, i.e. a specified amount.

So you want to use indefinite quantifiers – words you put in front of a noun which are not quantities but represent “how much” it is – but you are not sure when to use them?
It’s easier than you think.

Most of the uncountable words are like that for a logical reason.
Let’s take some liquids you drink as examples: water, coffee, milk, juice, soda, wine; how would you count them? You’d have to add a volume unit, say, litre or gallon, or a container, a glass, for instance; then you count count them. But liquids themselves cannot be counted, ever! And if you cannot count them, you can’t pluralize them either.

Countable words are clearly countable. You can have 1 pen, 2 pens, 1 car, 2 cars, 1 blog, 2 blogs, got it? You can easily pluralize them.

Let me go back to the uncountable words; they’re really important. All products you buy and are too difficult to have their smallest units counted are uncountable. You could count them but besides that being pointless and time consuming, sometimes you can’t even see those products’ smallest units because they’re invisible to the naked eye. Sugar, salt, rice, cheese, ham, bread, and chocolate are all uncountable.

Some words don’t have a logical explanation for their countable characteristic.
Information, furniture, rain, advice, are just some examples of uncountable nouns which don’t seem to have IMO an explanation that justifies their uncountableness.

And then we have the translators. Yes, you might be one of them. They’re people who translate every single word and expect the language they’re learning to behave exactly the same way their native one does. That obviously never happens.

From a Brazilian perspective, I’d like to stress the word “information”.
In Portuguese we can pluralize it (informação => informações), i.e. we can count it; in English though we cannot. And that’s a mistake a lot of Brazilians make.
If you’re not a native English speaker, you will probably find a lot of words in English that behave differently from their counterparts in your mother tongue.

What you can only use with countable nouns:

  • a
  • many
  • few, a few
  • a large number of

What you can use with both countable and uncountable nouns:

  • the
  • some, any
  • no
  • a lot of, lots of
  • enough
  • plenty of

What you can only use with uncoutable nouns:

  • much
  • little, a little bit of
  • a great deal of, a good deal of

As usual, here’s a video – by Rebecca from engVid – to help you out: