When you're not sure how many

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I recently received a question about expressing quantities, especially with vague terms such as a couple of, a few, a little, or several. What kind of numbers are we really talking about here? First we must realize that certain terms are used to measure countable nouns while others are used only with uncountable nouns.

Countable nouns can include the following when referring to quantities:

a couple of = two of something. It doesn’t have to be precisely two, it’s just expresses an indefinite number of something

a few = a small number of

several = more than two but not many

In general, a couple of is less than a few, and a few is less than several.

Then we have the uncountable nouns , which are often things in liquid or mass form, or abstract ideas. (For example, sand, beauty, butter, electricity, honesty, music, information, satisfaction, truth, water). Once again an approximate quantity could come in the following forms:

a little = a small amount of

some = an unspecified amount or number

much; lots of, a lot of = a large amount

most = the majority of, nearly all of

So if you have a couple of minutes, take a little time to add these expressions to your everyday speech. It will give me a lot of satisfaction. 

1 comment:

Tomas said...

I like this short and clear explanation.
Thank you Laura!

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