English Grammar Step by Step
A FEW, FEW, A LOT, LOTS, A LITTLE,
LITTLE, MANY, MUCH, NO AND PLENTY
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.)
A few and few are used with plural nouns; a little and 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 and few can be emphasized by very:
There are very few cherries.
There’s very little time left.
If we put little before countable nouns, it means small:
a little child/a small child.
a You’ve brought __________ deckchairs. There are only four, and we are
b There __________ buttercups here. You must fetch some more.
c There’s __________ bread. Why don’t you go to the baker’s and get some?
d We’ve got __________ tiger-lilies. Please bring some more.
e 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.
Many and much 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 safety pins
There’s a lot of/lots of/plenty of coal.
Of must be dropped if we do not mention the noun:
I’ve got a lot/lots/plenty.
There’s a lot/lots/plenty.
Many 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 and much. 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
She didn’t gain much experience. (She gained very little experience.)
She didn’t gain a lot of experience. (She learnt something from it.)
In formal contexts, much and many 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.
Many might be used as part of an object:
I have many foldings chairs.
You have seen many films!
Much 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.)
Very much 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, respectively:
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.
a Did you see __________ iguanas?
b There aren’t __________ caverns in this area.
c She’s got __________ lances and shields. She likes collecting them.
d __________ effort was devoted to please her.
e 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 or much, we need of,
as in first and second examples above. Many and much 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.
a I know __________ her relatives. (= Some of them.)
b __________ dogs are admitted into the dining room. (= Dogs are not allowed
in the dining room.)
c ‘Has he ridden __________ horses?’
‘Yes, __________. About a hundred, I think.’
d Use __________ this milk and __________ these eggs to make the cake. (= You need
e If a box of chocolates is empty, we say that there are __________ chocolates.
4 Revision exercise.
a You bought __________ cooked ham for all these sandwiches. Go and get some more!
b There are __________ beetles here. We’d better go and buy some pesticide.
c We have __________ eggs left. I’ve just opened the fridge, and there aren’t any.
d __________ people go to Catalonia for their holidays.
e Not __________ people are in favour of violence.
f There isn’t __________ insecticide left. We’d better go and buy some.
g Have you brought __________ sugar? We need a lot!
h __________ supporters think that he should resign from the team, as he isn’t
doing very well.
i We need ten packets of chewing gum, and you’ve brought only five. There are
__________ (of them).
j If you haven’t got enough quince jelly, you say that you have __________.
k There’s __________ bread in the bag. It’s empty!
l He was __________ admired by his comrades. (= His comrades admired him a lot.)
m He was __________ aware of this fact. (= He knew about this fact very well.)
n ‘How much coffee do we need?’
o We’re late for sure. You still haven’t had a shower or made up. We’ve got
__________ time left, so hurry up, please!
p We have __________ petrol. (= We have run out.)
q ‘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
r Only __________ us will get the job. (positive sense)
s If they had drunk almost everything, they would have left __________.
t She’s got __________ clothes. She’s extremely rich, and likes to dress well.
u We’ve got __________ cottage by the lake. (= We have not got a cottage
by the lake.)
v We don’t grow __________ vegetables; only enough for our personal consumption.
w __________ talk was given to this matter. They should have gone straight
to the point.
x My nephew can’t take any salt, so he puts __________ salt on his dishes.
y I’m __________ tired because I haven’t been able to sleep __________ at
z She’s not fit because she doesn’t take __________ exercise. She should go
jogging and cycling more often.
For more information about many and much used in comparative sentences, see unit
18, section 16; with too and so, 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
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.
Author: Miquel Molina i Diez
Pages: 1 and the key
1 Negative and interrogative sentences (Page 2 and the key)
2 Short answers (Page 2 and the key)
3 Question tags (Page 2 and the key)
4 Questions and exclamations (Page 2 and the key)
5 So, neither, nor, either (the key)
6 Be, used to, would, be/get/become used to, dare, have, get, become, grow, go, turn, fall and feel (Page 2 and the key)
7 Verb tenses: forms (Page 2 and the key)
8 Irregular verbs
9 Verb tenses: uses (Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5 and the key)
10 Personal pronouns, possessives and reflexive pronouns (Page 2 and the key)
11 The genitive case (the key)
12 Singular and plural nouns (Page 2 and the key)
13 Gender (the key)
14 A, an, some, any, no, not, none, each, every and the; compounds of some, any, no and every (Page 2, Page 3 and the key)
15 Neither, not...either, none, not...any, both and all (the key)
16 A few, few, a lot, lots, a little, little, many, much, no and plenty (the key)
17 Enough, too, so and such (the key)
18 Comparative and superlative sentences (Page 2 and the key)
19 Adjective order (the key)
20 Relative clauses (Page 2 and the key)
21 Do and make (the key)
22 Modal verbs (Page 2, Page 3 and the key)
23 Infinitives, gerunds and present participles (Page 2 and the key)
24 Conditional sentences (Page 2 and the key)
25 Passive sentences (the key)
26 Reported speech (Page 2 and the key)
27 Purpose (the key)
28 Word order (the key)
29 Inversion (the key)
30 Connectors (Page 2 and the key)
31 Prepositions (Page 2, Page 3 and the key)
32 Phrasal verbs (the key)