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As far as I know, all the words can be used as a pronoun. 'many' and 'few' occur with countable nouns, while 'much' and 'little' with uncountable nouns. There are two confusing sentences, which I saw in a grammar book.

(1) I'm not very busy today. I haven't got much to do.

(2) This is a very boring place to live. There's little to do.

Why both sentences don't use 'many' and 'few' instead? I think 'many' would represent 'many (things)' in the first sentence , and 'few' would represent 'few (things)' in the second sentence. Is my understanding right? Or actually there are some collocations which need 'much' and 'little' with the to-infinitive.

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  • They are determinatives, not pronouns.
    – BillJ
    Sep 1 at 6:15
  • I'm not sure I've correctly understood what you meant. In some situations, e.g. in the example sentences, 'much' and 'few' as a determinative can be used alone without following nouns, can't they? @BillJ
    – ing
    Sep 3 at 6:57
  • Yes, they can, but that doesn't make them pronouns. In modern grammar, they are called 'fused head' noun phrases because the determinative and the noun are combined, or 'fused', into the single word "much" (and "little").
    – BillJ
    Sep 3 at 7:10
  • Thanks!!! @BillJ
    – ing
    Sep 3 at 7:18
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Good point. It's not short for a number of things; you could think of it as short for an amount of work or stuff to do. (These are mass nouns.)

  • I have a lot of stuff to do.
  • I have so much stuff to do.
  • I have very little work to do.

Etc. For whatever reason, "I have many/few to do" is not the expression.

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You are correct that if you wanted to use "many things to do" or "few things to do" the noun is necessary; leaving it out would be incorrect. "Much to do" and "little to do" do not require the explicit noun; putting it in would also be incorrect.

The distinction (as nschneid just said, I see) is that "many" and "few" are used exclusively for count nouns, while "much" and "little" are used for non-count (or mass) nouns.

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