What Are Quantifiers and How Are They Used in English?

You may be wondering, “What is a quantifier?” Quantifiers are words that come before nouns and modify them. Like adjectives, quantifiers give us extra information about the noun they modify. In this case, they tell us how many or how much.

How can you know which quantifiers to use in English? Selecting the correct quantifier will depend on whether the noun in question is countable or uncountable. In this article, we have organised the quantifiers into groups based on their use. We have included plenty of examples for you as well!

Quantifiers in English

Before diving into the quantifiers in English, let’s briefly review the countable and uncountable nouns. This is a topic that is sure to come up in any online English course.

Countable nouns are individual people, places, animals, ideas, or things. They have a plural and can be counted. For example, tree, man, song, house, and dream all have plurals and can all be counted, so they are all countable nouns.

Uncountable nouns, on the other hand, are anything which can’t be counted. These are usually materials or liquids that are not individual objects. They also have no plural. Some common uncountable nouns include water, air, information, peace, and bread.

Quantifiers: Countable Nouns

The following quantifiers can only be used with countable nouns.

Quantifiers Examples
many Many people are complaining about the noise.
a few A few children are running in the park.
few Few apples remain in the tree.
several Several cats have been seen in the garden next door.
a couple of There were a couple of great movies in the theatre this summer.
none of None of the students have finished their exam.

Quantifiers: Uncountable Nouns

The following quantifiers are only possible with uncountable nouns.

Quantifiers Examples
not much There’s not much time left before our flight leaves.
a little Can you give me a little more water? I’m very thirsty!
little Please hurry! We have little time left to get to the metro.
a bit of There is a bit of extra pasta in the kitchen if you’re hungry.
a good deal of There was a good deal of work to do before the weekend.
a great deal of A vacation like that costs a great deal of money. Can we do something cheaper?

Quantifiers: Countable and Uncountable Nouns

Finally, the following quantifiers are perfect to use with both countable and uncountable nouns. For that reason, we have included an example using a countable noun as well as an example with an uncountable noun.

Quantifiers Countable Nouns Uncountable Nouns
all of All of my siblings have moved out. All of the information is true.
some Some trees still have flowers. Some water is leaking from the ceiling.
most of
Most of the houses in this neighbourhood have tidy yards. Most milk comes from cows.
enough There are enough chairs for everyone to sit down. I never have enough time to finish everything.
a lot of A lot of these albums are vintage. I bought a lot of food at the supermarket this morning.
lots of The shop sold lots of shirts yesterday. There is still lots of coffee in the pot.
plenty of There are plenty of books to choose from. There is plenty of paint left to finish this room.
a lack of I’ve noticed a lack of trees in the park. The students suffer from a lack of enthusiasm.

Similar Quantifiers: How to Tell Them Apart

While they may look very similar, “a few” and “few” are very different and have very distinct meanings in English. If you say “a few”, it means “several”. “Few”, on the other hand, means “little”. We should note that they are both used with countable nouns.

For example:

I have a few books about history.
This means that I don’t have a great number of books, but enough.

I have few books about history.
I don’t have enough books. I probably need more.

The same goes for “a little” and “little”. Both are used with uncountable nouns but there is a great difference in meaning between them. “A little” conveys the same meaning as “some”, whereas “little” means “not much”.

For example:

Sarah has a little work experience.
She has some work experience already, probably enough

Sarah has little work experience.
She doesn’t have much work experience or doesn’t have enough.

It may seem like a very small difference between the two, but it can really make a lot of difference in the right situation! Did you already know all of those quantifiers and how to use them? If so, why not test your English level and see where you’re at?

Do you want to learn more about English quantifiers and practice using them? ABA English offers 144 video classes and the same number of short films that will allow you to learn English at your own pace. Take advantage of our intuitive and natural method that pushes communication without sacrificing grammatical accuracy. What are you waiting for?

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