What are quantifiers?

A quantifier is a phrase or word that denotes a number or quantity which is being referred in a sentence. It is a type of determiner in English Grammar which is placed before a noun or a noun phrase. Quantifiers are used for the indication of imprecise or indefinite quantity. They are usually different than numbers or numerals which represent precise amount or precise quantity. Few examples of quantifiers include ‘some,’ ‘many,’ ‘a lot of’ and ‘a few.’

Quantifiers are placed before nouns or noun phrases (such as “all books”). However, they can be used as pronouns in a different context (such as “all have left”). Quantifies gives an idea about the amount or quantity of a noun or noun phrases. That means quantifiers can express small quantity, large quantity, part of the quantity, all of the quantity, etc.

Examples of quantifiers indicating a small or large quantity

  • Small: I have a few things to complete before heading home.
  • Large: I have many things to complete before heading home.

Examples of quantifiers that indicates part of or all of a quantity

  • Part: It is sunny most days here.
  • All: It is raining all day today.


There are many examples of quantifiers, but there are few among the examples that can serve different purposes. The single word or phrase can take on various roles in different sentences. For example the quantifier “any” can be used as a quantifier, as a pronoun as well as an adverb.

Quantifier “Any”- Do you have any potatoes?

Pronoun “Any”- I don’t want any of you to go out of this room.

Adverb “Any”- Can’t you drive this bike any faster?

Examples of quantifiers

They can be single words such as some, all, both, either, enough, few and so on or phrases such as a lot of, a few, lots of, etc.  According to the basis of phrase and words, quantifiers can be classified into simple and complex quantifiers.

Simple Quantifiers: Single words used as a quantifier is known as the simple quantifier. For example all, both, another, any, each, every, either, enough, few, fewer, little, less, more, much, many, some, neither, no, several.

Complex Quantifiers: Certain phrases that function as quantifiers are called as Complex Quantifiers. Examples: a few, a little, lots of, a lot of.

Examples of quantifiers:

  • He has got only a few chapters left to study.
  • How much money is needed to buy that painting?
  • There are some tomatoes left in the basket.
  • He has got more money than his sister.
  • A large quantity of water is required to fill the bucket.
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Therefore, it can be stated that a quantifier “quantifies” a noun or a noun phrase. Quantifiers can be classified according to the types of nouns they quantify. Some quantifiers can only be applied to a precise quantity nouns or countable nouns while there are also quantifiers that modify imprecise quantity or uncountable nouns. And there is another type of quantifiers that can be applied to countable as well as uncountable nouns.

Quantifiers with Countable Nouns

  • Many
  • several
  • a large number of
  • a great number of
  • a few/few/very few
  • a number (of)
  • a majority of

Quantifiers with Uncountable Nouns

  • much
  • a great deal of
  • a large amount of
  • a little/little/very little
  • a bit (of)
  • a large quantity of

Quantifiers with Both

  • all
  • less/least
  • no/none
  • enough
  • more/most
  • lots of
  • plenty of
  • a lot of
  • not any
  • some
  • any

Examples of quantifiers with countable nouns

  • How many of you are here for the morning classes?
  • A majority of you will be transferred to Delhi.
  • A large number of people will be attending the concert.
  • Do you have a few cookies?

Examples of quantifiers with uncountable nouns

  • How much salt do you want?
  • I have added too much sugar in the tea.
  • large quantity of food is donated to poor and homeless people by her on Sunday.
  • A bit of patience is required while solving this question

Examples of quantifiers with both

  • Would you like some coffee?
  • He has several clothes lying around in the house.
  • She has plenty of clothes to donate.
  • I don’t have any answer to your question.

Position of quantifiers:

The quantifiers as mentioned before are placed in the beginning of a noun/noun phrases in 3 different way:

  • Quantifiers used before a noun/noun phrases independently- fewer questions, some people.
  • Quantifiers used before an adjective + noun- some useful documents, many old newspapers.
  • Quantifiers used before an adverb +adjective + noun- a lot of very hardworking workers.

Usually two quantifiers cannot be placed together in the beginning of the same noun. However, there are quantifiers such as “all” and “both” that can be used before “the” or before a possessive pronoun such as “all my family members”, “both the prisoners”. Another combination of quantifiers include

  • Every few minutes
  • A little less
  • A few more

Quantifiers can also be used with a noun similar to pronouns such as

  • These books are new but still some are in damaged condition.
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Formal and Informal Quantifiers

In certain cases a sentence can be made formal or natural/ informal just by replacing the quantifier. For example

  • Many people were invited to the party. (Formal)
  • A lot of people were in a hurry to leave. (informal/natural)
  • She had little improvement throughout the year. (Formal)
  • She didn’t have much improvement throughout the year. (informal/natural)

Another way to differentiate quantifiers is according to the basis of quantity.

Large quantity quantifiers- much, many, a large number of, several, lots of, plenty of, numerous, etc. Usually “much” or “many” is not used in affirmative sentences as it is very formal and used in academics or formal writing. These are generally used in negative sentences or interrogative sentences.

Small quantity quantifiers- few, not many, not much, a few, little, a little, a small number of, etc. Excluding “not much or not many,” these quantifiers are commonly used in affirmative sentences.

Neutral or relative quantity quantifiers- Neutral quantifiers do not represent a large or a small quantity. It is not used in reference to actual quantity but in reference to relative quantity. They can be divided into four different groups:

  • Some and any
  • Each and every
  • All and whole
  • Most, most of, enough

Some common Quantifiers and their use in statements:

Many, much, a lot of

These types of quantifiers are used to for indicating large quantity. “Many” is applied to countable nouns whereas “much” is used with uncountable nouns. However, “a lot of” can be used with both types. Usually many and much are used for forming question by adding “how” before. For example how many / how much.  The words too can be added to the quantifiers to indicate a negative statement such as “too much hot”. Similarly so can be added with the quantifier to show a speakers attitude in reference to the quantity such as so much he could not tolerate, so many that, etc. However, much and many if used in affirmative sentences are used in a very formal manner. Therefore it is used in legal or academic papers. In modern English, a lot of, hundreds of, loads of, tons of, is used instead of much or many.

Few, little

These types of quantifiers are used with small quantities. Although the meaning of few and little is very similar but “few” is used with a countable noun and little is used with uncountable nouns. If these two quantifiers are applied without adding an article “a” before the quantifier than they impart a “not enough” feeling to the sentence such as “few chapters, little interest.” Again these words when used the sentence become very formal so generally “not many chapters” or “not much interest” is used instead. However, when an article “a” is used with quantifiers “few or little” it just refers to a small quantity without indicating any negative feeling such as “a little interest” or “a few chapters.”

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Any can be placed before the countable and the uncountable nouns generally in interrogative and negative statements.

  • Do you have any apple?
  • I cannot remember any answer.
  • He doesn’t want to bring any friend with him.
  • Will you buy any of the clothes?

Another way to use the word any is to represent numerous choices from a variety of things or an unrestricted amount. In cases like these, “any” is restricted to just questions and negatives.

  • Help yourself to anyof the food items.
  • Don’t you like any of these flowers?
  • I am not able to notice any difference.


Quantifier “some” is usually used as a positive counterpart to the quantifier “any” in certain situations or cases.

  • He will be bringing some friends with him.
  • I want to have some tea?

Similar to quantifier “any,” quantifier “some” can be used with both countable as well as uncountable nouns. However, it represents indefinite amount but not a large quantity.

  • Would you like to buy some vegetables?
  • Do you want to have some cookies?
  • I like some paintings in the exhibition.
  • I am able to notice some difference.

Quantifiers followed by “of”

Many quantifiers that end with “of” must be followed by an article or a determiner and there are some quantifiers even though followed by “of” do not follow such pattern. However, no exact rules indicate which quantifiers need an article after “of” or not need an article after “of”

Quantifiers that must be placed after an article or a determiner

Some of, many of, all of, each of, much of, (a) few of, (a) little of, enough of, none of, several of,

  • I’d like a few of those cookies, please.
  • Several of the students were sent off to other class.

Quantifiers that may or may not be placed after an article or a determiner

Lots of, a lot of, a couple of, plenty of, a number of

  • Several people returned from the trip.
  • A lot of people attended the concert.

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