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Difference between "much, many, a lot of and lots of"

What is the difference between them?

Are they synonyms or not?

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Use "much" to describe a relative amount of a noun that can't be easily counted or quantified. If you can't put a number before the noun, use "much."

Also, if you replace the object with a pronoun, it should be singular (it). Consider "collective nouns" that are singular but describe an unquantifiable volume.

"Much" is often combined with a modifier like "too," "not," or "very."

There is not much snow on the ski slopes this year. It's a small amount.

There's much work ahead before the end of the project. It's a big one!

There's too much sand on the beach to count it all. It's everywhere!

"Many" describes a quantifiable, countable noun. If you can put a number before the noun you should probably use "many." Here if you replace the object with a pronoun, it will be plural (them, they).

Many ski-lift operators will be looking for jobs. Who will employ 30 of them?

This project has many complex parts to consider. They are all critical - all 1000 parts.

There are too many grains of sand on the beach to count them all. At least a million of them are in my left shoe.

Using "a lot of" or "lots of" is sort of personal preference. In most cases the 2 are interchangeable.

There is a lot of ice on the road, so drive carefully! Also, there's lots of snow!

We still have a lot of work to do - lots of separate tasks to complete.

I found a lot of sand in my right shoe, and lots more in places I didn't know existed.

A lot of people make the mistake of writing "alot," so don't do that!

In most cases either one works fine, but you should be careful about replacing "a lot" or "lots" with "many" or "much." Note that in the examples below "many" works in place of "lots/a lot", but "much" doesn't work at all.

At first there was just one monkey, but then the banana truck exploded and there were lots of monkeys running all over the place!

A lot of the monkeys ran off to the beach afterward. Lots of bananas still litter the road though.

The town will need to hire a lot of people to clean them up. Lots of people need jobs now anyway.

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They are all used to mean "a large quantity" but it depends on what you are talking about. "Much" is used for uncountable nouns, "Many" is used for countable nouns, whereas "a lot of" and "lots of" are used in both cases. For example here's how I'd describe a fair I went to last week:

There wasn't much to see at the fair. Although there were many people there. There were a lot of kids and a lot of noise. Also lots of fun rides but nothing interested me.

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    It might also be worth mentioning that "lots of" might sound a bit too informal in some contexts. If I was describing the fair to one of my friends in conversation, I might do so the way you did here. But if I was writing a review for the local paper, I might change the last sentence to: There were also many fun rides but nothing interested me. – J.R. Aug 18 '14 at 22:16
  • much with uncountable nouns? I see much point in arguing about that! :P – Maulik V Aug 19 '14 at 4:39
  • many with countable nouns? The same point I discussed with a grammarian while trying many fine wines in his house :P – Maulik V Aug 19 '14 at 4:41
  • @MaulikV "I see much point in arguing about that" - that is an unusual usage IMO. I am not sure if you are providing more examples for my answer or contradicting it. Because "point" and "fine wines" can both be considered countable in the context they have been used. – Apeksha Aug 19 '14 at 19:30
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    I see no problem in "trying many wines". And "much point" is odd because, unlike sugar or water, "point" is countable; either one has a point (which may be evaluated qualitatively) or many. Apeksha's answer is perfect as it is IMHO. – Alan Evangelista Jun 7 at 14:49
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Both of these sentences are possible:

We drank much fine wine at his house.
We drank many fine wines at his house.

They don't have identical meaning, though.

The first sentence is about the quantity of wine drunk (uncountable). It could've been all the same type of wine.

The second sentence is about how many different types were drunk. There could've been five or six different varieties (countable).

The first sentence could be modified to make it countable . We drank many gallons of fine wine at his house.

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"Much, many lots of and a lot of -- though covered very well in other answers are actually VERY relative. Example: "Not much beer left..." (in my glass) could mean only a few sips, while "Not much beer left..." (for a large brewing firm) could mean hundreds of thousands of litres.

"...not much point..." seems rather, to be referring to the degree, or some unknown sort of (uncountable) measure, than to the actual noun "point or points" which (theoretically) would, indeed, be countable.

As a ship has ballast, it is also helpful for English speakers and teachers (as well as learners) to have a ballast of reading from authors from different places and periods and to have had the opportunity to have "tasted" different recipes of language and conversed with people from all over.

Our language is spoken, heard, read and thought in by SO many people. They come from different places, have different histories, and each has a somewhat similar (in a way) but different background. Also, each has experienced the use of language under different teachers, read different books and even is apt even to THINK in slightly different contexts, so that occasionally, qualified teachers can "hoot down as wrong" something that is well accepted as well as standard teaching and tradition in another place, or in another time.

While English certainly has "standards" and "rules", "poetry" is allowed to have "license": a qualified "bending" of the rules for expression's sake. I would submit that the same license be tolerated in other uses of language as well, for the sake of variety, discovery, humor, broadening of understanding, indeed, freedom of thought and finally, the introduction of other (yet) unknown varieties of your own mother tongue. Wouldn't you also (possibly, in the right context) agree?

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A simple answer to that question is as it goes-
1. Many and much are used in negative sentences and questions. or as they say, "common".
2. A lot of and lots of, on the other hand, is used in affirmative sentences commonly. it is not common in negative sentences and questions.

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