Quantifiers

Learn about quantifiers like all, some, enough and less and do the exercises to practise using them.

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.

Quantifiers with count and uncount nouns 1

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Quantifiers with count and uncount nouns 2

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Level: intermediate

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

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?

some and any 1

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some and any 2

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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.

Quantifiers with count and uncount nouns 3

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Quantifiers with count and uncount nouns 4

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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 supermarketswere closed. All the supermarkets were closed. The supermarket wasn’t open. Neither of the supermarketswas open. None of the supermarkets were open. I don’t think the supermarket was open. I don’t think either of the supermarketswas 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.

both, either and neither 1

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both, either and neither 2

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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 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)

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Submitted by leo15722 on Fri, 03/02/2023 - 12:24

Hello. Could anyone help me? In the question bellow:

Which of the alternatives below completes the sentence correctly?

There are no figures for ______ (1) of the applicants successfully get off waiting lists. It varies since it depends on the strength of the application pool and whether the fully accepted students decide to attend or go elsewhere.

A) how many
B) many

Why is letter B incorrect?

Hi leo15722,

The idea is that something is unknown (the number of applicants who successfully get off waiting lists). You can think of it as implying a question: How many applicants successfully get off waiting lists? "Many" by itself indicates a large quantity, but "how many" indicates that the quantity is unknown - it could be a large or small number.

Does that make sense? I hope it helps to understand it.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Leo. Look up "Embedded questions". Another way to look at this is that you must include the question word (here it is "how") if there is a verb in the question. Here the verb in the subordinate part of the sentence is "get". It would be grammatically correct to write "There are no figures for many of the applicants successfully getting off waiting lists" using the participle "getting", but then the sense of the sentence would be different: you would only be considering those applicants who got off the waiting lists, not all applicants.

Submitted by Prakash on Fri, 04/11/2022 - 07:49

If two or more than two singular nouns are joined by -
Or, either....or, neither....nor
The singular pronouns and adjcective are used for them.

Eg.
Jack or Tom has lost his book.
Lucy or Mary forgot to take her pen.

Jack or Lucy has lost ------ book.
his/her

Hello Prakash,

To be honest, I'm not sure what the most proper usage is here. If I were writing or speaking, I'd avoid using a structure like this because it's awkward.

If I had to use the structure for some reason, I'd use 'their' in the gap. 'they', 'them' and 'their' are very commonly used to refer to a single person whose gender is unknown or irrelevant and this solution works here.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Prakash,

I'm glad that helped. I'm afraid there's no easy way to find all of the questions you've asked, though I'd recommend trying an advanced Google search, where you search a specific URL for pages with the word "Prakash" -- that might work.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Marwan.Abdulwahab on Sat, 20/08/2022 - 08:45

Isn't "less" for uncountable nouns?!

Hi Marwan.Abdulwahab,

Good question! Traditionally, yes - "less" is for uncountable nouns, while for countable nouns it should be "fewer" (e.g. We have less time than you. / We have fewer friends than you.)

However, in everyday informal speaking and writing, people use "less" with countable nouns too. For example, there is a sign commonly seen in supermarkets which says "10 items or less".

For more examples, you may like to see this Cambridge Dictionary page (see the section "Less and fewer with a noun"): https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/less-or-fewer

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Mon, 25/07/2022 - 11:26

- Don't depend on false friends. None help / helps in need.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

As a pronoun, none takes a plural verb. Therefore 'help' is the only possible option here. However, I think 'will help' or 'would help' is a more natural verb choice.

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello again Peter M. Is the following sentence correct using both forms? Why?
I looked for milk in the fridge. None was/were there.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

In this case you have an uncountable noun, so 'was' is correct. In your earlier example you had a countable noun (friends), so you needed a plural verb.

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Mon, 28/03/2022 - 15:53

Hello. Could you please tell me if the following sentence is correct or there is something wrong with it?
I enjoy each of the moments I spend with you.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

The sentence is correct. You could also say 'each moment' without changing the meaning.

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Ahmed Imam,

The sentence is correct. You could also say 'each moment' without changing the meaning.

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Basheer Ahmed on Mon, 31/01/2022 - 22:29

Hello British Council Team,
I have a little confused regarding the usage of Either...or/ Neither...nor, particularly for Interrogative formation mentioned below:

> Are either/neither my friend or/nor my family members going to celebrate my birthday this year?
OR
> Is either/neither my friend or/nor my family members going to celebrate my birthday this year?

Which one is correct between these two?

Thank you.

Hello Basheer Ahmed,

To be honest, this question with 'either' doesn't make much sense to me.

'neither' is used with singular nouns, but 'neither/nor' refers to more than one person or thing, so it's possible to use either a singular or plural verb after it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Let us take the example from your expression here:
What I wanted to ask is: When we convert it into assertive form it will be like "Your friends or your family is going to celebrate your birthday this year."
We use Helping Verb in Assertive Form according to the subject which is nearer to the Main Verb, but while converting it into question form why do we use "Are" instead of "Is" here?
The same case is with the first question I have asked.
Thank you.

Hello Basheer Ahmed,

Thanks for explaining that again. I think I understand your question better now.

Part of the problem here is that the sentence you ask about seems strange to me: Why is it that only my friends or my family (but not both) are going to celebrate my birthday? And who is making this assertion, and why?

In any case, it's true that we generally use a singular verb with 'either', but in this case please notice two things: 1) 'either' is not in the sentence and 2) 'friends' is plural and 'your family', although grammatically singular, has the idea of more than one person. This is why I'd say 'are'. But it still sounds very strange to me for the reasons I mentioned above.

I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to change it to a different example that does make sense to me: 'Either your mother goes or I will' (imagine a father saying this to a boy who asks if one of the parents will go to the doctor with him). In this case, the subjects of the verbs and the verbs are singular.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Mr. Kirk. It was really helpful, but there is one more thing, I need, to be clarified:

> The Ministers or the President of our country is going to deliver a speech on the Independence Day.

Which one of the following is correct form of the statement mentioned above?
1. Is the Ministers or the President of our country going to deliver a speech on the Independence Day?
2. Are the Ministers or the President of our country going to deliver a speech on the Independence Day?

Hello Basheer Ahmed,

The affirmative sentence is odd because 'The Ministers' is clearly plural. Even though it could be the singular 'the President' who delivers the speech, combining singular and plural subjects like this is generally something we try to avoid. And is it really true that more than one minister is going to deliver a speech? Like before, this sounds like an odd situation to me.

But if I had to choose one of these forms, I'd choose the plural one (2). Perhaps this is because the verb 'are' is closer to the plural 'the Ministers', but I'm really not sure that's a good reason.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Mon, 28/06/2021 - 11:18

Hello Ahmed Imam,

This sentence isn't correct. 'all' normally refers to more than two people (or things), and it can only refer to three or more when you find 'neither' (which only refers to two people or things) in the same sentence.

If you're speaking about three or more colleagues, you should say 'none' instead of 'neither'. If you're speaking about two, you should say 'both' instead of 'all'.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Wed, 21/04/2021 - 21:08

Hello. Could you please help me? Which sentence is correct? Why? 1- There were four books on the table. Each book was a different colour. 2- There were four books on the table. Every book was a different colour. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

In this context both are possible.

We use each when we are thinking of all of the individuals, and every when we want to talk about the group as a whole; every is similar to ‘all’ or ‘everybody’.

The main different between them in terms of meaning is that we can use each to talk about two or more things but we can only use every when there are more than two.

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter
I just want to know the writer of this post because i want to cite some information from this post in my research paper.

Hello Ahmed Saboro,

Do you mean the author of this explanation of Quantifiers? If so, his name was David Willis.

Hope this helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Fri, 02/04/2021 - 13:44

Neither of the options doesn’t work. ;)

Submitted by yaya aly on Wed, 31/03/2021 - 18:10

we had a great weekend as the weather was perfect (all) or (both) days

Hello yaya aly,

'both days' is best here. 'all' usually refers to at least three items.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by yaya aly on Wed, 31/03/2021 - 18:07

which one is correct ? either of them seems interested in the offer. or neither of them seems interested in the offer.

Hello yaya aly,

The second one (with 'neither') is the correct option here.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Thu, 04/03/2021 - 12:43

Loads of time, heaps of food, and a great deal of money will ruin man. ;)

Submitted by mynameiscg on Wed, 03/03/2021 - 11:37

Dear sir, Could you tell me whether this following sentence is grammatically or not? - I don’t play soccer and neither does John. Have a good day .

Submitted by Jonathan R on Wed, 03/03/2021 - 15:53

Hi mynameiscg,

Yes, it's correct :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Tue, 02/03/2021 - 19:48

Hello Team. Which sentence is correct? 1- I looked at two sweaters, but I didn't buy either of them. 2- I looked at two sweaters, but I didn't buy both of them. Thank you.

Submitted by Quynh Nhu on Tue, 15/12/2020 - 01:37

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:

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

Submitted by Alex Woods on Thu, 10/12/2020 - 00:24

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

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Thu, 10/12/2020 - 17:00

In reply to by Alex Woods

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

Submitted by Omyhong on Mon, 23/11/2020 - 06:57

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

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Sun, 01/11/2020 - 18:28

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

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Sun, 01/11/2020 - 18:17

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

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Mon, 26/10/2020 - 11:01