3

Cambridge Grammar says:

As much as, as many as

When we want to make comparisons referring to quantity, we use as much as with uncountable nouns and as many as with plural nouns:

Greg makes as much money as Mick but not as much as Neil.

They try to give them as much freedom as they can.

There weren’t as many people there as I expected.

We can use as much as and as many as before a number to refer to a large number of something:

Scientists have discovered a planet which weighs as much as 2,500 times the weight of Earth.

There were as many as 50 people crowded into the tiny room.

Googling "plant trees as much as possible" returns 110K results while googling "plant trees as many as possible" only returns 21K.

I would say "plant trees as many as possible" is grammatical but "plant trees as much as possible" is not grammatical.

4

There are 4 possible combinations and arrangements I'd like to compare and contrast:

  1. Plant trees as much as possible.
  2. Plant trees as many as possible.
  3. Plant as much trees as possible.
  4. Plant as many trees as possible.

As far as I'm concerned (native speaker but not necessarily equipped to explain English to a non-native), 1 and 4 are definitely correct, 2 could be correct if spoken with a pause between "trees" and "as", and 3 is wrong.

Choice 3 is wrong for the reasons you've already mentioned: "Tree" is a countable noun so it must be modified by "many" rather than "much". This same reason is why choice 4 is correct.

Choice 2 would only be correct if written with a comma to indicate that "as many as possible" is an afterthought.

  1. Plant trees, as many as possible.

In other words, the speaker just said, "Plant trees." and after saying that, decided to add, "as many as possible." The sentence isn't technically grammatical but certain liberties are allowed in spoken language since thinking can be slower than speaking.

Regarding choice 1, I believe it is also correct but it conveys something slightly different from choice 4. In choice 4, the sentence is broken down like:

  1. (Plant) (as many trees as possible).

I may be wrong about this but I think "as many trees as possible" is a noun phrase acting as the direct object of plant. This sentence is telling the listener to plant something. It is telling the listener to plant a lot of trees.

Choice 1 on the other hand

  1. (Plant trees) (as much as possible).

In this sentence, "as much as possible" is an adverbial phrase modifying "Plant". This sentence is telling the listener how often he should plant trees. It is telling the listener to plant trees often.

-1

If you re-arrange the word order, you will find these two sentences.

Plant as many trees as possible.
Plant as much trees as possible.

"Tree" is a countable noun, so "much" cannot be used to describe its quantity. Therefore "many" is the correct one.

P.S. You should never rely on the number of results from Google. Because if you go over extra pages, you will find that your key words are scattered throughout a page from a search result.

  • It won't scatter if you use quotation marks. – user178049 Apr 18 '17 at 5:24
  • 1
    I'm sorry, this answer is wrong, see G-Cam's answer for the reason why. The pattern is (DO-verb phrase) (as much as possible), saying to DO as much as possible. – SteveES Apr 18 '17 at 11:21

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