Fill in the blanks as appropriate.
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.)
are used with plural nouns; a 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
can be emphasized by very:
There are very few
There's very little
If we put little
before countable nouns, it means small
: a little child/a small child
You've brought __________ deckchairs. There are only four, and we are five people.
There __________ buttercups here. You must fetch some more.
There's __________ bread. Why don't you go to the baker's and get some?
We've got __________ tiger-lilies. Please bring some more.
I've seen __________ cured ham in the fridge. I think we have enough.
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.
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
There's a lot of/lots of/plenty of
must be dropped if we do not mention the noun:
I've got a lot/lots/plenty.
There's a lot/lots/plenty.
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
. 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. 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
She didn't gain a lot of experience.
(She learnt something from it.)
In formal contexts, much
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.
might be used as part of an object:
I have many foldings chairs.
You have seen many films!
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.)
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 the one expressed by (very) few
and (very) little
There aren't many traffic cones/There are (very) few traffic cones.
We haven't got much jam/We've got (very) little jam.
The only difference between the four sentences above is that the ones with (very) few
and (very) little
connote a smaller quantity.
Did you see __________ iguanas?
There aren't __________ caverns in this area.
She's got __________ lances and shields. She likes collecting them.
__________ effort was devoted to please her.
We didn't take __________ wine from the cellar —only a couple of bottles!
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
, we need of
, as in first and second examples above. Many
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.
"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.
I know __________ her relatives. (= Some of them.)
__________ dogs are admitted into the dining room. (= Dogs are not allowed in the dining room.)
"Has he ridden __________ horses?"
"Yes, __________. About a hundred, I think."
Use __________ this milk and __________ these eggs to make the cake. (= You need only some.)
If a box of chocolates is empty, we say that there are __________ chocolates.
4 Revision exercise.
You bought __________ cooked ham for all these sandwiches. Go and get some more!
There are __________ beetles here. We'd better go and buy some pesticide.
We have __________ eggs left. I've just opened the fridge, and there aren't any.
__________ people go to Catalonia for their holidays.
Not __________ people are in favour of violence.
There isn't __________ insecticide left. We'd better go and buy some.
Have you brought __________ sugar? We need a lot!
__________ supporters think that he should resign from the team, as he isn't doing very well.
We need ten packets of chewing gum, and you've brought only five. There are __________ (of them).
If you haven't got enough quince jelly, you say that you have __________.
There's __________ bread in the bag. It's empty!
He was __________ admired by his comrades. (= His comrades admired him a lot.)
He was __________ aware of this fact. (= He knew about this fact very well.)
"How much coffee do we need?"
We're late for sure. You still haven't had a shower or made up. We've got __________ time left, so hurry up, please!
We have __________ petrol. (= We have run out.)
"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."
Only __________ us will get the job. (positive sense)
If they had drunk almost everything, they would have left __________.
She's got __________ clothes. She's extremely rich, and likes to dress well.
We've got __________ cottage by the lake. (= We have not got a cottage by the lake.)
We don't grow __________ vegetables; only enough for our personal consumption.
__________ talk was given to this matter. They should have gone straight to the point.
My nephew can't take any salt, so he puts __________ salt on his dishes.
I'm __________ tired because I haven't been able to sleep __________ at night lately.
She's not fit because she doesn't take __________ exercise. She should go jogging and cycling more often.
For more information about many
used in comparative sentences, see unit 18, section 16
; with too
, unit 17
; with how
, unit 4, sections 9 and 10
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
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.) For more details about no
, see unit 14, section 18