Many vs. Much

Posted: February 14th, 2014, 10:37 am   By: brittany.corners

“Hey Butthead, I dreamed I was at school last night. Do you think that counts for attendance?”—Beavis, accidental metaphysicist

Let’s take on the subject of counting: many vs. much and few vs. fewer.

This summer, the heat has been more brutal than when I learned “Big Brother” is still on TV. Seriously, who watches that offal? During this hot spell, our fellow citizens have been going a little bonkers. We’ve got sons beating up their own mothers. Sun-stroked students protect effigies to those who let chesters run wild. On neighborhood sandlots, children spew venom so caustic it would cause even hate speech aficionados like Fred Phelps to wince.

In these near-apocalyptic times, we need rules more than ever. Let’s start with establishing when to use many or much and few or fewer. The secret here is distinguishing between count nouns and mass nouns. Never fear, learning the general guidelines here is easier than it sounds.

Count Nouns

These are things you can count individually. Take a look at your surroundings, and you’ll see count nouns galore: magazines, tissues, prescription pill bottles, Justin Bieber posters, and the like. When writing about quantities of these types of nouns, use many or fewer.

Mass Nouns

On the other hand, mass nouns are things that you cannot count individually: water, saltpeter, impotence, desperation, and so forth. With quantities of mass nouns, use much or less.

A Tip to Tell the Difference

Generally, you can distinguish between a count and a mass noun by determining whether or not you can make it plural. If you can, then it’s likely a count noun. Granted, exceptions to these rules exist—but I have a word count to keep here. Adhere to these basic guidelines, and you’ll be safe most of the time.

And please, don’t bob for apples in the toilet…even if you like it.