Quick Tips: Is it Much or Many?
When it comes to qualifiers, much and many are quite the troublemakers. Along with their friends little and few, and less and fewer, much and many are two commonly confused adjectives I see when editing. The question is how do you know when to use much and when to use many? It depends on the noun the word is modifying.
Mass nouns—or uncountable nouns—are nouns that are not able to be quantified without including a specific unit of measurement, i.e. counted. For example, water is a mass noun. You cannot count water. You can measure units of water in cups, gallons, liters, etc. But you cannot measure water in waters.
Conversely, countable nouns are just that—nouns you can count. Leaves are countable. They fall from the tree—one leaf, two leaves, three leaves, etc. Soon you have a pile you have to rake. Piles are countable, too.
And yes, some words can be both countable and uncountable, depending on the definition. Paper in its general sense is a mass noun, but if you consider the thing that lands on your doorstep every Sunday morning a paper, you receive four papers a month. Don’t even get me started on the papers I wrote in college. The English language is confusing. Let’s stick to the easy part for this tip.
Back to qualifiers… in simple terms, many, few, and fewer quantify the countable nouns:
There are too many bugs tonight.
I have a few days off next week.
She’s got fewer poker chips than you do.
And much, little, and less quantify the uncountable nouns:
There was so much love in the room.
He received little financial aid in college.
The less time I spend in this heat, the better!
And that’s the quick rule. Like I said earlier, English is a confusing language, so maybe we’ll hold those nouns that are mass and countable for another time. What other qualifiers can you think of that work the same way? Leave me some ideas in the comments.