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I have come across the following construction, but l am not sure whether it is correct or not.

Not a lot of his friends speak English well.

My question is: can we use "a lot of" in a negative sentence as mentioned above?

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    Sure, but "not many of his friends" would be better. – user3169 Oct 26 '17 at 19:51
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Yes, you can use this construction. From the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Definition of a lot of

a large number or amount of (things, people, etc.)

A lot of people feel that way. There was a lot of space. Not a lot of people know that.

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/a%20lot%20of

I think it's fine for informal usage, but I personally would avoid using it in formal, written English. The word lot, defined as a large number or amount, often carries the "informal" label in dictionaries. Not a lot of seems even more informal to me.

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  • You are right. My first impression was that it was not appropriate to use in a formal context. Anyway l appreciate your quick reply. – Mido Mido Oct 26 '17 at 18:24
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As Ringo has said, you can most certainly use this within this sentence however it is more informal. A more formal alternative would be to say "not many of his friends speak English well".

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