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Quantifiers

Level: beginner

We use quantifiers when we want to give someone information about the number of something: how much or how many.

Sometimes we use a quantifier in the place of a determiner:
 

Most children start school at the age of five.
We ate some bread and butter.
We saw lots of birds.

Quantifiers with count and uncount nouns

We can use these quantifiers with both count and uncount nouns:

all some more a lot of enough
no any most lots of less

We have lots of time.
Joe has lots of friends.
I can't go out. I've got no money.
There was a lot of food but no drinks.

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Level: intermediate

These more colloquial forms are also used with both count and uncount nouns:

plenty of heaps of  a load of  loads of  tons of

We have loads of time.
Joe has plenty of friends.
There was heaps of food.

Level: beginner

some and any

We do not normally use the quantifier some in negative and interrogative sentences. We normally use any:

Do you have any children?
Did you see any friends?
We don't have any children.
I didn't see any friends.
We saw some lions at the zoo, but we didn't see any tigers.

but we can use some for offers and requests:

Would you like some tea?
I want some apples, please.

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Quantifiers with count nouns

Some quantifiers can be used only with count nouns:

(not) many each either (a) few
several both neither fewer 

These more colloquial forms are used only with count nouns:

a couple of hundreds of thousands of

I’ll be back in a couple of minutes.
There were hundreds of people at the meeting.

Quantifiers with uncount nouns

Some quantifiers can be used only with uncount nouns:

(not) much a bit of a little

Would you like a little wine?
Could I have a bit of butter, please?

These quantifiers are used particularly with abstract nouns such as time, money and trouble:

a great deal of a good deal of

It will probably cost a great deal of money.
He spent a good deal of time watching television.

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Level: intermediate

Members of groups

We put a noun directly after a quantifier when we are talking about members of a group in general:

Few snakes are dangerous.
Most children like chocolate.
I never have enough money.

but if we are talking about members of a specific group, we use of the as well:

Few of the snakes in this zoo are dangerous.
Most of the boys at my school play football.
He’s spent all (of) the money that we gave him.
Both (of) the chairs in my office are broken.

Note: with all and both, we don’t need to use of. We can say all the … and both the … .

both, either and neither

If we are talking about two people or things, we use the quantifiers both, either and neither:

One supermarket Two supermarkets More than two supermarkets

The supermarket
was closed.

Both the supermarkets
were closed.

All the supermarkets
were closed.

The supermarket
wasn’t open.

Neither of the supermarkets
was open.

None of the supermarkets
were open.

I don’t think the supermarket
was open.

I don’t think either of the supermarkets
was open.

I don’t think any of the supermarkets
were open.

Note that nouns with both have a plural verb but nouns with either and neither have a singular verb.

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every and each

We use the quantifiers every and each with singular nouns to mean all:

There was a party in every street. (= There were parties in all the streets.)
Every shop was decorated with flowers. (= All the shops were decorated with flowers.)
Each child was given a prize. (= All the children were given a prize.)
There was a prize in each competition. (= There were prizes in all the competitions.)

We often use every to talk about times like days, weeks and years:

When we were children, we had holidays at our grandmother's every year.
When we stayed at my grandmother's house, we went to the beach every day.
We visit our daughter every Christmas.

We do not use a determiner with every and each:

Every shop was decorated with flowers. (NOT The every shop)
Each child was given a prize. (NOT The each child)

Comments

Hello team,
I have 2 questions about "either A or B " structure.
The first question is that the verb behind subject "either A or B " will follow A or B. For example:
"Either I or my coworkers am going to help you". Is this grammatically correct?
Secondly, when I read some newspaper , I saw they used "either on Wednesday or Thursday". I thought it had to be "either on Wednesday or on Thursday" or "on either Wednesday or Thursday". Please tell me which one is correct.
Have a nice day.

Hello Quynh Nhu,

The verb following this structure should agree with the final item. If the final item is third-person, then the verb will agree with this:

Either I or Bob is going to help you.

 

When the preposition is repeated you can omit it. Thus it's fine to omit the second 'on' in your example. Obviously, if the preposition is different then it needs to be included:

I can meet you on Wednesday or (on) Thursday.

I can meet you in the week or at the weekend, which ever you prefer.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello
I am confused in the part where you say

“ Neither of the supermarkets
was open.”

Why are you using was when the noun is plural? Wouldn’t it be more like:

“Neither of the supermarkets
where open.” ?

Thanks, have a good week forward

Hello Alex Woods,

The subject of the verb here is not just 'the supermarkets', it's 'neither of the supermarkets'. 'neither' is singular, and so a singular verb like 'was' is correct.

People also use a plural verb (like 'were') here too, though, since the whole phrase refers to more than one supermarket.

By the way, our site is for people who are 18 or older. I'd suggest you have a look at our sister site LearnEnglish Teens.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Good day, sir.

I would like to know if neither/nor take a singular or plural verb. What about either...or? Does it depend on which subject is closer to the verb?
Thank you.

Hello Omyhong,

Both singular and plural verbs are possible. Using a singular verb is a bit more formal than using a plural one.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. What is the difference between the two sentences?
- Tom is too careful to make very few mistakes.
- Tom is careful enough to make very few mistakes.
Thank you.

Hello again Ahmed Imam,

The first sentence does not really make sense. We would say omit 'very few':

Tom is too careful to make mistakes.

The sentence tells us that because Tom is careful, he does not make many mistakes, so we need something which means 'not many', 'not a lot', 'not a huge number of' etc. This sentence implies that if Tom were less careful then he would make more mistakes, and (with the change above) it has a very similar meaning to the second sentence.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Is the following sentence correct?
- I'm too busy going to work every day.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Grammatically, the sentence is fine. Obviously, whether or not it makes sense in a given context will depend on the context.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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