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What is the difference between much and lots of to express large quantity of uncountable noun.

NOAD defines lots as:

a great deal; much

and defines much as:

to a great extent; a great deal

so it's obvious the two can be used as synonyms. But are there any differences?

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    The semantic similarities are obvious, but there are some grammatical differences, for example "much" is incompatible with count singular nouns (*much cars), while "lots of" can be used with both count and non-count nouns ("lots of cars" / "lots of money"). – BillJ Aug 14 '16 at 12:14
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I think the overall meaning is pretty much the same, but there is a slight difference in tone: lots of has a more informal tone that might work well on a playground or in a valentine, but much might be a good substitute for a campaign speech or technical paper.

We had lots of trouble getting the experiment to work.
We had much trouble getting the experiment to work.

I think the bottom version would sound better in a technical paper. However, sometimes you can make the noun countable, and use many instead of much. For example:

We encountered many problems getting the experiment to work.

It also depends on the context. Sometimes you can't simply substitute one for the other. For example:

Add lots of chili powder if you like it spicy.
Add much chili powder if you like it spicy.

In that example, I prefer the top sentence (the "lots of" version). However, if we switch to the negative, things might change:

Don't add lots of chili powder unless you like it spicy.
Don't add too much chili powder unless you like it spicy.

In that example, I prefer the bottom sentence, with a too added before much.

As for picking the best wording, I'm not sure if there's a general guideline that can be followed. There are many complicating factors, so this is is one of those areas where you need to rely on intuition, style, context, and experience.

| improve this answer | |
  • Your examples are perfect! Have my upvote :) – Jude Niroshan Aug 14 '16 at 12:05

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