Is there a difference in meaning between "many" and "many of"? and if so what is it?

For example, if one says "many of them are confined" ("them" representing children), does that mean in a group of children, many are confined? Or does it mean many children are confined?

Is it the same for "a few of them"?

And what about these sentences:

Many of these. -->Many among these? Or a number of these?

Many of these people. --> Many among these people?

Many of her paintings. --> Many paintings among all of her paintings?

  • Not sure what your confusion is. In a phrase like "many of her paintings" you can't remove "of" and have "many her paintings"; the latter is not grammatical, while "many paintings" loses the link with "her". "Many of" (where "many" is a noun) is used with pronouns and demonstratives ("this", "those", etc), "many" as an adjective is used preceding nouns ("many fish"). This is all evident in the dictionary.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 7, 2022 at 8:55
  • You say that many of them refers to children; therefore it must mean many of [a particular group of children that has already been identified]. If you don't know what it means, how do you know that 'they' are children? Sep 7, 2022 at 15:34

1 Answer 1


"Many" is just an (indefinite and subjective) number and hence an adjective. Whereever you say "many" you could also say "fifteen" or "one" or any other (definite or indefinite) number (many, some, all, ...), but also another adjective, say, "green".

Many people are left-handed.
Fifteen people are left-handed.
Green people are left-handed.

"Many of ..." is just the same but specifying the (sub-)group you talk about.

Many people are left-handed.

This says something about all entities you mean by people. "Many" is an adjective here. It would be possible to even leave the "people" out if it is clear what the subject is:

Let us talk about people. Many are left-handed.

"Many" is an adjective made noun here.

"Many of ..." will restrict what you say to a (to be specified) subgroup. The specification either happens by explicit declaration or using a pronoun or demonstrative:

Many of the green people are left handed.
Many of the people i talked about are left handed.
Many of them are able to write using their right handed.

The first and the second sentence attribute the left-handedness to a specific group, the third one references what was said before, perhaps the "left-handed [...] people i talked about" from above.

Demonstratives are back-references to something that has already been said, pointed at, etc.. This (you see? Here I reference what I have said in the sentence before.) is their function.

  • Thank you for your answer Bakumin. Just to make sure, so in the end "many of her paintings" mean "many among all of her paintings"? Sep 7, 2022 at 14:24
  • 1
    @Eren8hisfather: Yes, exactly like this.
    – bakunin
    Sep 7, 2022 at 15:24

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