A Lot of Nothing: How to Quantify a Noun

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 A Lot of Nothing

How to Quantify a Noun

Quantifying Countable and Noncountable Nouns

Today we are going to continue to discuss countable and noncountable nouns, a topic which we began last week.  In this lesson, we are going to talk and learn about quantifying countable and noncountable nouns

To read the previous lesson and one which will provide background to today's lesson,
read  "One, Two, Three Little Countable Nouns".

The Problem 

I recently received the sentence below from a learner of English.  The meaning of the statement is clear, but there are some problems with grammar.  Here is the sentence:

    I went to Back Bay station yesterday to buy train tickets, but there is no parking space.

Noun Quantifiers

The problem in the sentence concerns the use of count and noncount nouns and the use of noun quantifiers.  There are several ways to write this sentence correctly.

How would you correct the above sentence?  Type your idea into the IDEA BOX below.

What is 9 + 3? Please answer question in order to prevent spam. Thank you.

The Foundation

Quantifiers are words that indicate how much of something there is. There are quantifiers for plural countable nouns and for noncountable nouns (which only exist in the singular form).

The quantifier exists in the noun determiner position, that is, right before the noun.

Plural Countable Nouns:  Examples of quantifiers for plural countable nouns are:

few ~ , a few ~ , fewer ~ , a couple of ~ , a lot (of) lots of ~ , a ~ number of ~ , many ~
too many ~ , no ~ , not enough ~ , enough ~ , a half (of) ~ , all (of), etc.

a lot of grammar lessons

many grammar lessons


Noncountable Nouns: Examples of quantifiers for (singular) noncountable nouns are:

  • little, a little, a lot (of), a great deal of, much, too much, all (of), no, not enough, enough, half (of), less, more, etc.

a lot of grammar

much grammar

We can also use quantifying a plural countable noun, We can also use these quantifiers in combination:

I'd like to have a lot less grammar homework.

Below is a picture of garbage.  The word garbage is a noncount noun.

How would you describe what you see, using a quantifier? Write a sentence in the textbox below.

What is 9 + 3? Please answer question in order to help us prevent spam. Thank you.

The correct sentence is -

I see a lot of garbage.

Now let's try to correct the original sentence: "I went to Back Bay station yesterday to buy train tickets, but there is no parking space."

Did you know that the word space exists as a count noun and as a noncount noun?  If you didn't know that before, now you do.  So this sentence can be rewritten in two different ways.  As we rewrite each sentence, notice that the verb form also changes due to the rules of subject-verb agreement.

1.  "SPACE" as a (PLURAL) COUNT NOUN   (Notice the plural verb form.)

    I went to Back Bay station yesterday to buy train tickets, but there are no parking spaces there.

2.  "SPACE" as a NONCOUNT NOUN (Notice the singular verb form.)

    I went to Back Bay station yesterday to buy train tickets, but  there is no space there for parking

Additional Activities for Practice

Now you can practice using quantifiers with the common noncountable nouns listed below.   Create a sentence for each in which you use a noun quantifier, just like you did for the word garbage, above.  The quantifiers are listed below the line.

  1. money

  2. sleep

  3. knowledge

  4. vocabulary

  5. privacy

  6. English

So from the ESL Help Desk, thanks for listening to us this week, and remember to email us your questions about English grammar by posting your comments or questions on our blog.

 Answers to Last Week's Question:

six oranges five red peppers

eight lemons

four yellow squashes and two zucchini squashes
lots of squash
lots of garlic and ginger
lots of garlic cloves
a lot of ginger roots

three eggplants

nine green apples one yellow pepper,
one pomegranate, and
one red pepper
six lemons fifteen potatoes six apples
half a dozen apples
four bok choy
six red peppers lots of green squash
six golden apples two butternut squashes

Photograph of Vegetables, Copyright Carla Saliba.