Is it okay to use "a lot of" with countable nouns or is it still better to use "many" instead?

For example, how much is "He had many wives" better than "He had a lot of wives"?

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    Usages like He had many wives are very formal/dated. Not quite so much as numerous, but in that general area. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 5 '17 at 14:31
  • There's not much in it, but one related expression that is definitely informal is "lots", as in "He had lots of wives". – BillJ Oct 5 '17 at 18:05
  • @mathewb - I meant simultaneously. – brilliant Oct 5 '17 at 18:11

Yes, it's fine to substitute "a lot of" for "many" with countable objects:

There are many ships out on the ocean today.
There are a lot of ships out on the ocean today.

As FumbleFingers points out in his comment, "many" can feel formal or dated, and "a lot of" is more informal. It may be appropriate to use "many" with subjects that are already formal or dated. Polygamy, for example, is a dated practice in much of the world, so "he had many wives" is appropriate, especially when talking about historical or biblical figures:

King Solomon had many wives, supposedly more than 700.

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Yes, you could. Many is better grammatically. The phrase "a lot" is used more in informal everyday speech.

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