Thursday, December 6, 2012

Numbers and amounts

As promised--and I hope you weren't holding your breath--I thought I'd continue from my last post about countable and uncountable nouns.

Now that you know the difference between these two, another difference that you should know about, other than  when to use "fewer" and "less", is the difference between "number" and "amount".  The use of these words is when you're referring to how much of something there is.

With countable nouns, you use "number" and with uncountable nouns, "amount".

Example with countable nouns: There was a large number of birds chirping out my window this morning.
Example with uncountable nouns: There was a small amount of sugar left over after all our Christmas baking.

So it would be incorrect to say "There was a large amount of birds" because "birds" is a countable noun.  I hear people use "amount" a lot when it should be "number".  Usually, people don't think of it the other way around, though.  I've never heard someone say, "There was a small number of sugar".  I think it sounds so funny that people just know not to use that!

Now that I think about it, there's a difference between the use of "much" and "many" with countable and uncountable nouns.  I guess that's for yet another entry!

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