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A Quick Review of the English Adverbs of Quantity

Imagine that adverbs of quantity didn’t exist. You’d have to go around everywhere saying an exact number if you wanted to make the person you were talking to understand the quantity you were talking about. It’s much more comfortable (and quicker) to say “I have a lot of pages left to read for class today” than “I have 367 pages left to read for class today!” Not to mention the fact that you’ll spend a lot less time counting.

The list of adverbs of quantity in English is quite long. But there are some that are more used than others. In this article, we’ll explain what adverbs of quantity are and how to use them. To make this grammar review even more complete, we’ll also give you some examples, tips, and practice exercises.

What Are Adverbs of Quantity?

As their name implies, adverbs of quantity tell how much or how many of something there is. We’ll get more into the difference between those ideas soon. It’s important to remember that adverbs are used to describe verbs, adjectives, adverbs, or sentences. Also, adverbs generally end in -ly.

Adverbs of quantity give the degree of something. Let’s look at an example.

He ate chocolate cake.

With that sentence, we just know that he ate cake. We don’t know to what degree he studied. That’s where the adverbs of quantity come in.

He ate a lot of chocolate cake.

He ate a little chocolate cake.

Countable and Uncountable Nouns

Do you remember what countable and uncountable nouns are? Countable nouns are the names of objects, people, ideas, and so on that can be counted and, therefore, used with a number. These nouns have a plural form.

For example: One computer, two computers, three computers

Uncountable nouns are the names of materials, liquids, and other things that we see as a whole and not as separate objects. They have no plural form and, therefore, we can’t use them with numbers.

For example: water, milk, work

Knowing the difference between countable and uncountable nouns is very important when using adverbs of quantity because the adverb you choose will depend on if the noun is countable or uncountable.

How Much vs. How Many

If you want to ask a question about the quantity of something, you need to use either how much or how many to start the sentence. The difference is easy, though! How much is only used with uncountable nouns while how many is only used with countable nouns.

For example:

  • How much money do you have?
  • How much juice is in the fridge?
  • How many apples do you want?
  • How many CDs do you have?

Much vs. Many

The rules that control the use of much and many are the exact same ones that we saw above with how much and how many.

Much is used with uncountable nouns. It’s used to indicate big quantities, usually in negative or interrogative sentences.

For example:

  • Is there much theft in Sweden?
  • There isn’t much sugar in this drink.
  • Laura knows some Chinese, but not much.

Many is used with countable nouns to indicate a big number. In general, it’s also used in negative and interrogative sentences.

For example:

  • Do you have many international friends?
  • There are not many movies I enjoy.
  • Are there many people working at your company?

A Little vs. A Few

Yet again, the choice between these adverbs is left to whether the noun is countable or uncountable. If you still have doubts, an online English course could clear up all of your doubts really quickly.

In this case, a little is used with uncountable nouns to indicate small quantities. It’s used in both affirmative and negative sentences but not usually in questions.

For example:

  • There is a little milk in the coffee, but not much.
  • Susanne only knows a little French.

A few is used with countable nouns to indicate a small number. It’s also used in sentences that are both affirmative and negative but it’s not often found in questions.

For example:

  • I have a few sweets, would you like one?
  • There are a few problems with this program.

A Lot Of

This adverb of quantity is in a world of its own. It can be used with countable nouns as well as with uncountable nouns. It’s generally used in affirmative sentences to indicate a big number or quantity. This is an adverb that you will definitely see a lot of!

For example:

  • There’s a lot of snow in the North Pole.
  • It costs a lot of money to stay at this resort.
  • There are a lot of tourists in the city centre today.
  • There is a lot of sugar in this drink.

English Adverbs of Quantity Exercises

Now that you have reviewed the use of adverbs of quantity, let’s put that knowledge to the test! If this test goes well, why not take a level test to see how good the rest of your English is?

Complete the following sentences with the corresponding adverb. We’ve included the answers at the end so you can check how you did.

  • __________ fruit do you want me to buy? 
  • There is __________ juice left in the bottle. Do you want to finish it?
  • __________ books does your mum have in her office?
  • I have __________ questions about the homework. Can you help me?

Answers:

  • How much
  • a little
  • How many
  • a lot of / a few

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