I would like your opinion on the following question:

Despite John's furious scrubbing, most of the stain still remained.

Should 'much' be used in place of 'most'? My understanding is that 'stain' is uncountable. On the other hand, 'most' can be used for uncountable items too, such as 'information'.

  • Note: "stain" is countable ("There are three stains on my shirt", "That is a stain on his character"). It can sometimes be uncountable (eg "Rub some more stain on that wood") but that is in specific circumstances and less common.
    – psmears
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 15:30
  • 1
    @psmears in general "stain" is countable, but this example is talking about portions of a stain, which are uncountable.
    – Kat
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 17:58
  • 3
    Both are possible. In partitive noun phrases, "much" and "most" can be used with count singular nouns ("much/most of the car was damaged"). "Most", but not "much", is fine with count plural nouns ("most of the cars were damaged" ~ *"much of the cars was/were damaged). "Much" and "most" are fine with non-count nouns ("much/most" of the meat was contaminated).
    – BillJ
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 18:04
  • @Kat: Notice that you've described it as "portions of a stain" - both nouns there are countable (otherwise you couldn't have them pluralised or use "a"). As BillJ says, you can use "most" with a singular count noun, and that is what's happening in this example. You wouldn't say *"There is stain on John's shirt", or *"There is some stain" - you'd say "There's a stain on his shirt" :-)
    – psmears
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 20:37
  • @psmears but you would say "he cleaned much of the stain" not "many of the stain" if you meant as a portion of one stain. "Portions" is not really the right word. What I mean is that a stain doesn't have discreet parts, so there's no way to count the amount that has been cleaned. I think that's what OP meant, too.
    – Kat
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 21:34

3 Answers 3


Most is "more" than much. Much means a large amount, but most implies that the amount is large compared to something else, or something like "almost all."

In this situation, if almost all of the stain remained, most would probably work best.

If stain was countable, you'd have to use many instead of much, but you could still use most.

Many of the candies were melted.

Most of the candies were melted.

Much of the chocolate was eaten.

Most of the chocolate was eaten.

  • 3
    I basically agree, but I'd clarify that "most" is generally understood to mean at least "more than half". "Much" is only used with uncountable nouns. As noted here, an equivalent for countable nouns is "many". "Most" can be used with both countable and uncountable.
    – Jay
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 14:31
  • 2
    Most: majority (more than half).
    – Davo
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 14:32
  • Most would mean the biggest part. Technically it could be less than half if there are like 6 pieces of X distributed like A=40%, B=20%, C=10%, D=10%, E=10%, F=10% - most of X is A - for example.
    – LawrenceC
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 14:36
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    @LawrenceC actually, lots of people would not say "most of X is A", specifically because it is not a majority. Instead it would be "there are more A's than any other letter" or something equally unambiguous, again to avoid implying a majority, which is what "most" seems to imply (in my experience anyway).
    – SlimsGhost
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 15:29
  • 2
    @SlimsGhost: Yes - you would say "A is the most common in X", but not "Most of X is A" as that would imply A>50%.
    – psmears
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 15:32

You can use "much" or "most" based on the quantification that seems appropriate to you. "Most" is the superlative of "much", so depending on how much of the stain remained, you can use the appropriate word.

Someone like me would use "most" even if 50% of the stain remained, and "much" if 10% of it remained, whilst others might have a totally different threshold of differentiation.

Adding some explanation regarding countable/uncountable:

If the query was about a "number" of stains, as in:

"Despite John's furious scrubbing, many/most of the stains remained."

Emphasis being on the plurality of stains, then you will have to use many/most, depending on your threshold of differentiation between many and most.

But, the opening post is referring to the intensity of the stain, that is the quantifiable as an uncountable, therefore, in this context you must use much/most, depending on your threshold of differentiation between much and most:

"Despite John's furious scrubbing, much/most of the stain remained."

I hope this clarifies the questions that some had, regarding it being an uncountable vs countable.

  • Much is used for uncountable,you can use many instead but most is more
    – yass
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 19:49
  • @yass Added some explanation to the above answer to clarify on your comment. Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 6:37

Culturally, "much" seems to have a recent connection to a degree of importance. For example, in the 2010 Disney movie Alice in Wonderland the Mad Hatter addresses Alice's boldness with the statement "You used to be much more...'muchier.' You've lost your muchness.".

"I tossed most of my inhibitions and went for the ticket." reflects the quantity of inhibitions while "I tossed much of my inhibition and went for the ticket." reflects a change in the essence of the state of inhibition.

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