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Serenity Carr, Assistant Editor
Much, Many, Count Nouns, and Mass Nouns
Monday December 5th 2016
Question
What is the difference between "How much" and "How many"? — Alejandro, Dominican Republic
Answer

The choice between much and many depends on the noun it is describing.

Much is used to describe mass nouns or noncount nouns like juice, rice, patience, and happiness. When using much, the noun will always be singular; it cannot be plural.

Many is used to describe count nouns or nouns that can be counted like books, ideas, leaves, and shoes. When using many, the noun will always be plural.

The following examples show how much and many are used. The nouns are underlined.

  • How much milk does the recipe call for?
  • I don't have much time left to finish the assignment.
  • There is too much stuff on the shelf.
  • How many roses did you buy?
  • I don't know how many movies I own.
  • There are so many things to do I don’t know if we will get them all done.

 

You can use many with a noncount noun only if you are talking about different types, kinds, or measured quantities of something. The following examples show this.

  • How many cups of milk does the recipe call for? (Milk is a noncount noun but the question is asking "how many cups" and cup is a count noun.)
  • She put too many teaspoons of sugar in her coffee. (Sugar is a noncount noun but teaspoon is a count noun.)
  • How many kinds of fruit does she grow in her garden? (Fruit is a noncount noun but kind is a count noun.)
  • The market sells many types of rice. (Rice is a noncount noun but type is a count noun.)

 

Just remember: if you can count the noun, use many (the noun will always be plural). If you cannot count the noun, use much (the noun cannot be plural).

I hope this helps.

 

 

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