easy grammar · ESL grammar · expressions · Grammar

The Difference Between Number of and Amount of

“Hugs can do great amounts of good – especially for children.” Princess Diana

For things that you can count, you can say: a number of.

If you can’t count it, you can speak about an amount of something.

Examples with Number of and Amount of

Here are some examples:

A number of trees were lining the street.

I’ve used number because I can say: one tree, two trees.

A large amount of money is in this bag.

I’ve used amount because I can’t say: one money, two money.

Oh yeah, this may seem pretty dumb to you, but with number the noun following it needs to be a plural. So it needs to be more than one.

So you can’t say a number of tree. A number of is always more than one thing or person.

amount3

Countable and Uncountable Nouns

Okay, so let’s test you on this.

What can I say with the following nouns?

Children

Children is plural, so I can say a number of children.

Sugar

Sugar is one thing that is uncountable. So I can say an amount of sugar.

Oil

Oil is uncountable. So I can say an amount of oil.

Books

Books is plural, so I need to say a number of books.

Got it?

The Verb with Number Of

Now about the verb.

When you use number of, the verb after it needs to be plural. Even when you say a number of students or a number of ducks, it doesn’t matter, the verb is plural because students and ducks are plural.

So we get:

A number of students were absent.

A number of ducks are sitting on the ice.

amount

The Verb with Amount Of

With amount, on the other hand, the verb is singular.

A small amount of sugar is in the bowl.

A large amount of Email is waiting in your inbox.

Note:

It’s always a number of and an amount of. With a, not the.

amount5There is – There are

The same rule applies when you use there is and there are (or in the past: there was and there were).

Rule: The noun following number of and amount of determine whether the verb is singular or plural.

Here are some examples:

There is a large amount of money in this bag.

There were a number of students in the classroom.

Okay.

Now let’s look at some really common combinations with number and amount.

Number:

A large number of

A good number of

A great number of

A huge number of

A small number of

Amount:

A large amount of

A great amount of

A fair amount of

A small amount of

You can make your own creative combinations here but I don’t recommend you to use them in everyday language as people may look at you strangely. So stick to the above combinations unless you are a poet.

But you can of course say: a certain amount or number and other such adjectives that don’t change the quantity (= don’t change how much something is).

Now let’s spice this up a little bit.

amount2

Amounts and numbers in the plural

You can also use amounts and numbers in the plural, like so:

Large numbers of children were in the playground.

There isn’t anything special about this, as we know already that you need to look at the noun: children. And children is plural so that’s why were is in the plural.

Does the same thing work for amounts?

Let’s see:

Large amounts of cash are needed for the trip.

So here the rule that I gave you before doesn’t apply. The noun is cash, which is singular, but when amounts is plural (with an s at the end), the verb needs to be plural too.

Here is another example of this:

Huge amounts of love aren’t important to my robot dog.

Question:

Why is it correct to write: She needs large amounts of cash to pay for her trip.? And not: She need (without s)?

Well, here needs belongs to she and not to the large amounts of cash. (Large amounts of cash is the object of the sentence and not the subject.)

Now we’ll do a little quiz. Or rather, you will do it and I’ll just watch. 🙂

Quiz

Click here to do this quiz online. 

Choose singular or plural verbs.

1 A good number of visitors ___________ seen the exhibition.

2 A large amount of cash ___________ sitting in his mother’s bank account when she died.

3 Large numbers of people __________ deficient in vitamin D.

4 A great number of students ___________ Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven at high school.

5 A fair amount of chilli in your diet ___________ said to be preventative of cancer.

6 A large amount of work ___________ waiting on my desk when I returned from my holiday.

7 Instead of the huge turnout that was expected, only a small number of demonstrators __________ on the square.

8 A good number of children in the classroom _________ from ADHD.

9 But only a small number of children ____________ afraid of spiders.

10 Great amounts of sunbathing ____________ your skin.

11 Huge numbers of bats ______________ on the park at night.

Want to do more grammar quizzes?

There are a large number of quizzes here. 

4 thoughts on “The Difference Between Number of and Amount of

  1. Thanks for your comment, Mohan. You’re right! It should be the, because we already know which number of apples we mean. But I meant that a number or an amount is always used when you start talking about something new or something in general. I liked your example of the apple trees!

    Like

  2. Dear Jacqueline,
    It remains my great pleasure to see your post on the difference between the A number of and A+adj+ of … or Amount of with which I am still confused. Many are clear, though.
    One thing I don’t understand is that suppose I am a gardener of you and you are the owner. In this situation, both of us would have an exact information on the number of apple trees in our garden. Let’s suppose that you would be absent or away from home for a bit long period of time. Once you would have come back home and ask me with a question sentence : Hey, mohan have the number of apple trees decreased or remained intact ? Would this sentence with the use of “THE” be wrong as you noted down as It’s always a number of and an amount of. With a, not the ?

    With regards,

    Like

  3. Indeed, I hate people confusing amount and number. The difference is the same as that between much and many, and between less and fewer.

    On the subject of verb agreement (pardon the pun), you can also say, for example, “The number of students who passed the test is small.” But there’s a difference here in that it isn’t the students that are small, but the quantity of them, and therefore the “is” agrees with “number”.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s