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Graded Quantifiers

many/much, more, most
few, fewer, fewest
little, less, least

All quantifiers are determiners that express quantity, sometimes exact. But with graded quantifiers we can express approximate quantity on a relative scale (rising ➚ and falling ➘). (This idea is similar to adjectives such as big, bigger, biggest or small, smaller, smallest.) Also note, in the following table, that four of these quantifiers are used with countable nouns (C), four with uncountable nouns (U) and two with both.

quantifier comparative superlative
increasing
C many more most
U much
decreasing
C few fewer fewest
U little less least

many/much

The quantifiers many and much mean "a large quantity of". We use many with countable nouns and much with uncountable nouns:

Note that we tend to use many/much in negative and question sentences. For positive sentences, especially in informal English, we prefer a lot of, or (very informal) lots of.
    C U
+ I've got a lot of eggs a lot of rice
- I haven't got many eggs much rice
? Have you got many eggs? much rice?

more, most

Many/much (and few/little) are unusual determiners because they have comparative and superlative forms. The comparative form of many/much is more; and the superlative form of many/much is most. We can use more and most with countable and uncountable nouns.

Look at these example sentences:

few/little

The quantifiers few and little mean "a small quantity of". We use few with countable nouns and little with uncountable nouns:

few/little versus a few/a little

Notice that few and little have a "negative" sense:

  • He had few friends. (So he was quite lonely.)
  • We have little time left. (Just a couple of minutes. Let's go!)

Adding the indefinite article a changes the emphasis to more "positive":

  • He had a few friends. (So he wasn't too lonely.)
  • We have a little time. (A bit of time. Let's grab a snack.)

fewer/fewest, less/least

The comparative form of few is fewer; and the superlative form of few is fewest. We use them with countable nouns:

The comparative form of little is less; and the superlative form of little is least. We use them with uncountable nouns:

Although less is correctly used with uncountable nouns only, many native speakers now also use it with countable nouns, especially in informal English:
  • Less people came this time.
Don’t confuse the determiner/quantifier little with the adjective little (meaning "small"), which can be used with countable nouns:
determiner There is little time left.
adjective I have a little dog.

Example Sentences

Look at some more example sentences showing graded quantifiers in context:

*Note that you can add too before many or much to indicate an excess amount.

More information on specific quantifiers: