Quantifiers – Some rules of thumb on the use of little, a little, few and a few.
LITTLE : only used with UNCOUNTABLE nouns, synonym for hardly any, not much
e.g. Look at the sky, there is little hope for bright and sunny weather tomorrow.
A LITTLE:only used with UNCOUNTABLE nouns, synonym for a small amount, some
e.g. Is there ? The weather forecast says there is still a little hope.
FEW: with COUNTABLE nouns, synonym for hardly any, not many
e.g. Few people attended the meeting. I counted onnly 4.
A FEW: with COUNTABLE nouns, synonym for a small number, some
e.g. A few people asked me how I felt. That was nice.
Quantifiers with countable
and uncountable nouns
Adjectives and adjectival phrases that describe quantity are shown below. Some can only go with countable nouns (friends, cups, people), and some can only go with uncountable nouns (sugar, tea, money, advice). The words in the middle column can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns.
uncountable nouns With uncountable
and countable nouns Only with
How much? How much? or How many? How many?
a little no/none a few
a bit (of) not any a number (of)
– some (any) several
a great deal of a lot of a large number of
a large amount of plenty of a great number of
– lots of –
Note: much and many are used in negative and question fo
• How much money have you got?
• How many cigarettes have you smoked?
• There’s not much sugar in the cupboard.
• There weren’t many people at the concert.
They are also used with too, (not) so, and (not) as :There were too many people at the concert – we couldn’t see the band.
It’s a problem when there are so many people.
There’s not so much work to do this week.
In positive statements, we use a lot of:
• I’ve got a lot of work this week.
• There were a lot of people at the concert.
A few and few, a little and little
These expressions show the speaker’s attitude towards the quantity he/she is referring to.
A few (for countable nouns) and a little (for uncountable nouns) deescribe the quantity in a positive way:
• “I’ve got a few friends” (= maybe not many, but enough)
• “I’ve got a little money” (= I’ve got enough to live on)
Few and little describe the quantity in a negative way:
• Few people visited him in hospital (= he had almost no visitors)
• He had little money (= almost no money)
Some and Any
Some and any are used with countable and uncountable nouns, to describe an indefinite or incomplete quantity.
Some is used in positive statements:
• I ha
• He’s got some books from the library.
It is also used in questions where we are sure about the answer:
• Did he give you some tea? (= I’m sure he did.)
• Is there some fruit juice in the fridge? (= I think there is)
Some is used in situations where the question is not a request for information, but a method of making a request, encouraging or giving an invitation:
• Could I have some books, please?
• Why don’t you take some books home with you?
• Would you like some books?
Any is used in questions and with not in negative statements:
• Have you got any tea?
• He didn’t give me any tea.
• I don’t think we’ve got any coffee left.
SOME in positive sentences.
a. I will have some news next week.
b. She has some valuable books in her house.
c. Philip wants some help with his exams.
d. There is some butter in the fridge.
e. We need some cheese if we want to make a fondue.
SOME in questions:
a. Would you like some help?
b. Will you have some more roast beef?
ANY in negative sentences
a. She doesn’t want any kitchen appliances for Christmas.
b. They don’t want any help moving to their ne
c. No, thank you. I don’t want any more cake.
d. There isn’t any reason to complain.
ANY in interrogative sentences
a. Do you have any friends in London?
b. Have they got any children?
c. Do you want any groceries from the shop?
d. Are there any problems with your work?
Compound nouns made with SOME, ANY and NO
Some + -thing -body -one -where
Compound nouns with some- and any- are used in the same way as some and any.
• Someone is sleeping in my bed.
• He saw something in the garden.
• I left my glasses somewhere in the house.
• Are you looking for someone? (= I’m sure you are)
• Have you lost something? (= I’m sure you have)
• Is there anything to eat? (real question)
• Did you go anywhere last night?
• She didn’t go anywhere last night.
• He doesn’t know anybody here.
NOTICE that there is a difference in emphasis between nothing, nobody etc. and not . anything, not . anybody:
• I don’t know anything about it. (= neutral, no emphasis)
• I know nothing about it (= more emphatic, maybe defensive)
SOMETHING, SOMEBODY, SOMEWHERE
a. I have something to tell you.
b. There is something to drink in the fridge.
c. He knows somebody in New York
d. Susie has somebody staying wi
e. They want to go somewhere hot for their holidays.
f. Keith is looking for somewhere to live.
ANYBODY, ANYTHING, ANYWHERE
a. Is there anybody who speaks English here?
b. Does anybody have the time?
c. Is there anything to eat?
d. Have you anything to say?
e. He doesn’t have anything to stay tonight.
f. I wouldn’t eat anything except at Maxim’s.
NOBODY, NOTHING, NOWHERE
a. There is nobody in the house at the moment
b. When I arrived there was nobody to meet me.
c. I have learnt nothing since I began the course.
d. There is nothing to eat.
e. There is nowhere as beautiful as Paris in the Spring.
f. Homeless people have nowhere to go at night.
ANY can also be used in positive statements to mean ‘no matter which’, ‘no matter who’, ‘no matter what’:
a. You can borrow any of my books.
b. They can choose anything from the menu.
c. You may invite anybody to dinner, I don’t mind.
ALL, BOTH, HALF
These words can be used in the following ways:
ALL + 1
my, your, etc.
these, those Uncountable noun
Countable noun in the plural
Countable noun in the plural
1. All cheese contains protein
All children need affection
2. All the people in the room were silent.
Have you eaten all the bread?
3. I’ve invited all my friends to the party.
I’ve been waiting all my life for this opportunity.
4a. Who’s left all this paper on my desk?
4b. Look at all those balloons!
BOTH + 1
my, your, etc.
Countable noun in the plural
1. Both children were born in Italy.
2. He has crashed both (of) the cars.
3. Both (of) my parents have fair hair.
4 You can take both (of) these books back to the library.
See note below
HALF + 1
my, your, etc.
these, those Uncountable
1. I bought half a kilo of apples yesterday.
2. You can have half (of) the cake.
She gave me half (of) the apples.
3. I’ve already given you half (of) my money.
Half (of) his books were in French.
4 Half (of) these snakes are harmless
You can take half (of) this sugar.
NOTE: All, both, half + OF: ‘OF’ must be added when followed by a pronoun:
All of you; both of us; half of them
It is also quite common to add it in most of the above situations except when there is no article (No.1 in all the tables above.)
EACH, EVERY, EITHER, NEITHER
These distributive words are normally used with singular nouns, and are placed before the noun.
Each, either and neither can be used with plural nouns but must be followed by ‘of’:
Each is a way of seeing the members of a group as individuals:
• Each child received a present.
• Each of the children received a present.
Every is a way of seeing a group as a series of members:
• Every child in the world deserves affection.
It can also express different points in a series, especially with time expressions:
• Every third morning John goes jogging.
• This magazine is published every other week.
Either and Neither are concerned with distribution between two things – either is positive, neither is negative:
• Which chair do you want? Either chair will do.
• I can stay at either hotel, they are both good
• There are two chairs here. You can take either of them.
• Neither chair is any good, they’re both too small.
• Which chair do you want? Neither of them – they’re both too small.
SUCH, WHAT, RATHER, QUITE
These words are normally placed before the indefinite article.
Such and what are often used to express surprise or other emotions:
a. What a lovely day!
b. She’s such a lovely woman!
c. What an incredible film!
d. He’s such a fantastic guitarist!
Rather and quite are ‘commenting’ words, referring to the degree of a particular quality. They can express disappointment, pleasure, or other emotions, and are used before a/an + adjective + noun:
a. It’s rather a small car. (= I’m a bit disappointed because it’s small)
b. It was quite a nice day.(= I was agreeably surprised.)
c. He’s had quite a bad accident. (= I’m worried)
d. I’ve just met rather a nice man. (= I’m pleased)