When referring to information students write down in classes/lectures, we normally use the plural form of 'note' - 'notes' tends to be used. But I am not sure whether 'notes' is countable/uncountable in this specific usage.

For example, should I use 'much' or 'many' if I want to ask someone:

"How much/many notes do you normally take during lectures?"

'Much' seems like the better option to me because 'many notes' sounds as though the student in question takes notes for multiple subjects. However, using 'much' would not be grammatical if 'notes' is a countable plural noun. In that case, should I use 'note' instead?

"How much note/notes do you normally take during lectures?"

Out of the 4 alternatives, which one is the most correct, natural-sounding question?

  • Explain to me, please, how the noun note could ever be uncountable? Do you have a reference for that?
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 15:55
  • I am honestly unsure as to whether 'note' is uncountable in this particular case, as it could mean the writing the student did. As for 'much' and 'many', I believe 'much' is used with uncountable nouns while 'many' is used with countable nouns.
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 16:03
  • I have added note taking to my answer.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 19:27

2 Answers 2

  • How many notes did you take during the lecture?

Answer: Not many. Just a few; a few you might find interesting.

notes is a countable noun and therefore takes many, not much.

  • How much coffee did you drink?
    Answer: Too much. In fact, I drank three coffees one after another. Don't you think that is too many?

Unlike the word coffee and others, the noun note cannot be uncountable. It is only countable.

That said, one can use note taking, which is uncountable.

  • How much note taking did you do?
  • Answer: Not much. I just took a few notes during the class.
  • The noun note can be uncountable, but not in the sense described here. For instance (from sense 4), she was a figure of note or take note of the time. Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 20:39
  • 1
    @JasonBassford Generally, one deals with the meaning required. Any other meaning is irrelevant to my answer. What is uncountable in this context is note taking,
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 21:15

I would say:

How many notes do you normally take during lectures?

As a reminder

We use How much + singular or uncountable (which we can not count)

(water, money, furniture, food, petrol, wine ...)

How much wine did you drink last night? I only drank a glass !

We use How many + plural or countable (that we can count)

(apples, children, books, planes, people, dogs, pens, cars ...)

How many brothers and sisters do you have? I have one brother and two sisters.

Source + exercises for French speakers: www.anglaisfacile.com.


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