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XP (Experience Point) is a term particularly used in gaming. Should I use much or many in this context?

Adam: 'I killed the boss! I got 100 XP!'

Alex: 'Great, how ___(many/much) XP have you got?'

Google says to use "how much". According to the app version of the OALD, it has another form: XPs (or Experience Points). Because of the s, I'm assuming that XP is countable and people should say, "How many XPs (Experience Points) did you get?".

In that case, why do people say "How much XP"?

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    I am not a gamer so my intuitions are not useful here, but I do see many Google hits for "how many XPs". It could be some people (or people in certain subcommunities) interpret "XP" as countable while others don't.
    – nschneid
    Dec 5, 2021 at 21:38
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    read XP as eXPerience not eXperience Point Dec 6, 2021 at 3:27
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    Perhaps not all gamers care about using grammatically correct English?
    – jamesqf
    Dec 7, 2021 at 4:42
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    Seems related to Why is “deal 6 damage” a legit phrase?.
    – amalloy
    Dec 7, 2021 at 11:54
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    @jamesqf, "Gamer" is a dialect in its own right with a considerable lexicon that doesn't make sense without that context e.g. 5 wood or 6 damage.
    – Separatrix
    Dec 7, 2021 at 14:34

5 Answers 5

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We use “many” for countable things (e.g. glasses of water), and “much” for un-countable things (e.g. sand; sand is not feasibly countable). But also note that “grains of sand” uses “many”, as the grains are countable.

I would describe “XP” or “EXP” as a collective of “experience points”, similar to how “sand” is a collective of “grains of sand”. One could say both:


How much XP / Experience did you get?

How many XP points / experience points did you get?

So, you're partially correct that XP is countable. The points themselves are considered countable, but "XP" as a whole is not — again, just like how grains of sand are countable, but "sand" is not.

For more on the distinction between many and much, try this website: https://www.gingersoftware.com/content/grammar-rules/adjectives/much-vs-many/

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    "XP points" seems to be a case of RAS Syndrome to me (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAS_syndrome?wprov=sfla1). As a non-English-native DM, I would use "How much XP is this monster worth?" vs. "How many XPs do I get, if I kill this monster?".
    – D. Kovács
    Dec 6, 2021 at 8:08
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    @D.Kovács: Some people will tell you that XP is not an initialism at all, and is instead an abbreviation of eXPerience. I am somewhat skeptical of this explanation, but as a native speaker who actually plays this sort of video game on a somewhat regular basis, I have never seen XP used in a plural form (e.g. "XPs"). I think the simple explanation is that it's uncountable because that is how people have historically used it, perhaps due to influence from D&D and/or JRPGs, or perhaps because it is "already plural" and doesn't need to be further pluralized.
    – Kevin
    Dec 6, 2021 at 9:50
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    XP is quite schizophrenic in this regard, because "you get 100 XP" is a common thing to say, but "you get 100 sand" is nonsensical - you cannot get a specific number of something truly uncountable. Dec 6, 2021 at 10:53
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    @Kevin RPG SE has a Q&A on the history of “XP” as an abbreviation. It’s definitely short for “experience points,” at least in its (apparent) original usage in the 1979 AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide. That said, I think the comments likening it to currency or units are the most likely explanation: XP is a unit of measure, and is also often a currency.
    – KRyan
    Dec 6, 2021 at 14:17
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    @SebastianRedl: IME, in gaming jargon, expressions like "5 gold" or "100 sand" with the unit / material in singular are not at all unusual. I would typically parse them as codified convenience abbreviations of e.g. "5 [pieces of] gold" or "100 [units of] sand". Probably this usage is in part promoted by game UIs and manuals often using it to save space, and by the fact that games often tend to measure resources in abstract and arbitrary in-game units with no clear real-world counterpart. Dec 6, 2021 at 15:39
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Technically 'XP' may mean 'Experience Point' but most people, when they are framing the question in their head, will think of it as just 'Experience'. So when they ask the question "How much XP is this encounter worth?" they are really asking "How much experience is this encounter worth?".

While technically expressed as a discrete countable number of points in role playing games, the general concept of 'experience" is not generally expressed as or thought of as a discrete number and 'much' becomes the word used in questions out of habit. To a native English speaker, it will just feel like the correct word to use.

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    +1 Acronyms sometimes take on a life of their own and behave differently than the phrase they abbreviate. Dec 6, 2021 at 21:11
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    Yup. Much better than the accepted answer. In reality, if you break it down, this isn't grammatically correct, but it's how it's used.
    – Michael W.
    Dec 6, 2021 at 23:31
  • "read XP as eXPerience not eXperience Point"
    – Mazura
    Dec 8, 2021 at 19:40
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This is a good question that, as a native speaker, I never really thought about until now. The point is a good one: "much" is used for uncountable objects (sand, water), whereas "many" is used for countable objects. So why do people think of Experience Points as uncountable? To me, it comes down to the following question:

What does it mean to be countable?

In practice, people think of something as countable when differences of 1 are notable. For example, you would use "many" to ask

How many houses does he own?

when the answer is 2 or 3. In this case, a difference of 1 house is significant. But if the expected answer is tens of thousands (say, a real estate developer) where the difference of 1 is insignificant, you would switch to "much":

How much housing does he own?

Experience points are the same. If a typical XP award for an encounter were less than a dozen, I'd ask "how many XPs was that worth?", expecting the answer to be, for example, 3 or 4. But in these types of games, it's far more typical to be awarded 23,000 XP (or some other very large number), at which point people start to think of individual XP like grains of sand or molecules of water.

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tl;dr Experience (EXP) isn't countable, so it's a "How much?" thing. By contrast, experience-points (XP) are countable, so they're a "How many?" thing.


How much of a concept, or how many in a quantification?

Characters acquire experience (EXP), which can sometimes be quantified in terms of experience points (XP).

Analogies:

Concept Example quantifiers
Experience Experience-points, levels, bars(Note)
Money Dollars, Euros, Pounds, months of one's salary
Distance Kilometers, miles, meters, feet, football fields
Time Seconds, minutes, days, years

Note: Some games show experience in a figure composed of multiple bars, so players might refer to "bars" of experience, where each bar might be like 5% of a level.

We ask "How much?" of a concept, or "How many?" in a quantification.


Questions that don't require quantified responses might still get a quantified response.

Alice: How much longer?

Bob: 5 seconds.

Alice didn't ask for a quantification, but Bob provided one. It works, even if Alice didn't necessarily need to an exact number of seconds.

Alternatively, Bob could've responded like this:

Alice: How much longer?

Bob: Pretty soon.


Regarding the example in the question:

Alex: 'Great, how ___(many/much) XP have you got?'

Either way could work.

Using "much" would ask a more general question. For example, the answer could be "Almost enough to level!".

Using "many" would imply a more specific request for a number of experience-points.


Note: Ambiguity between "XP" and "EXP".

"XP" and "EXP" mean different things to different folks.

Personally, I tend to think of "EXP" as being the first few letters from "EXPerience", while "XP" comes from "eXperience Points".

However, some folks use them as synonyms, sometimes preferring "XP" because it's shorter. They may not even recognize a distinction between the concept of "experience" and a quantization of it with "experience points".

For folks who don't consider the difference, they may not be using the normal grammar rules discussed above, but rather just always default to asking "How much?" on a more idiomatic basis.

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  • The acronym "EXP" is very uncommon, and not the subject of OP's question. Dec 7, 2021 at 18:50
  • @PeterKapteyn: The OP's question about "XP" was addressed; comparison with "EXP" (which is just experience) was relevant.
    – Nat
    Dec 7, 2021 at 19:00
  • I've never seen EXP used. I think it's so uncommon that mentioning it just confuses the issue. Dec 7, 2021 at 19:18
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My take is that it's treated the same as money. It's reasonable to ask 'How much money do you have?' rather than 'How many units of local money do you have', even though it's a quantifiable amount.

It's a silly point to make, but not outrageous to say that if a noun is countable or not is often more about 'how realistic is it to count this?' rather than 'can this be counted?'

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