English Basics: much, many, little, and few

As an ESL teacher, it is always troubling when students presented examples of poor English usage by native English speakers. One of the most common examples of misused English grammar is the word “much.” For instance, I frequently hear there is “much” cars on the road, and “much” cases of COVID-19. Unfortunately this is incorrect, because much and little are used solely for non-count nouns, whereas many and few are used for count nouns. I think the problem arises because people think “much” sounds normal, but if we use many in the incorrect context it sounds harsh.

For example, if we use “many” to refer to the non-count noun “traffic” it sounds like this:

There is many traffic today.

Not only does “many” sound bad with traffic, but “many” also requires that the verb becomes plural.

There are many traffic today. (Yikes!)

The proper use of much, many, little, and few is this:

  • There is much traffic today. (non-count nouns get a singular verb)
  • There are many cars on the road.
  • There is little traffic today.
  • There are few cars today.

How do we know if a noun is count or non-count?

An easy way is to put “a” in front of it, because the article “a” denotes one, which by definition is a countable thing.

We can have a car, a book, a dog, and a mind, but we cannot have a traffic, a knowledge, an oxygen, a sunshine, or a poor English!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.