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______ thousand species of butterflies have been identified.

Which is the correct phrase to use here ? I tried to find answer googling but internet is flooded with many vs much differences, couldn't find any site where they have explained the usage of as many vs as many as.

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  • It certainly isn't much. Many would be most appropriate; perhaps best if the phrasing were this: "Many thousands of species of butterflies have been identified."
    – ArrowCase
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 20:09
  • The construction as many as N [plural noun] is an idiom implying that (a) the exact value of N is uncertain, (b) the speaker thinks N is surprisingly large (and expects the audience to feel the same way), and (c) the actual number is probably slightly less than N, rather than slightly more (the number chosen for N is usually the largest the speaker can get away with without obviously exaggerating things). Unless you specifically want all those associations, follow @ArrowCase's advice and stick with plain many. Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 20:37
  • ...I've just Googled to discover that there are 17,500 species of butterflies. It would be pushing it a bit, and you'd probably be wise to include the word may as a "hedge", but you could say As many as 20,000 species of butterfly may have been identified (once we collate all the data). Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 20:42

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There are a few alternatives here:

As many as a thousand species of butterflies have been identified.

(ie. at most 1000 -- probably slightly less than 1000)

Many thousand species of butterflies have been identified.

or

Many thousands of species of butterflies have been identified.

(ie. not just one thousand. The number of thousands is many.)

As many thousands of species of butterflies have been identified ... .

(ie. Because the number of species is many thousand ...)

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