Using MUCH

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How MUCH can be used
Compiled for the students of Michael Krigline, MA (April 2006)

Many Chinese students use “much” in the wrong way. The following information is from my forthcoming writing textbook.


MUCH can be used:

(1) with non-countable nouns in negative sentences,

(2) with non-countable nouns in positive or negative questions,

(3) as “too much” or “much of the” with a non-countable noun (also positive or negative),

(4) “as much as” or in front of a comparative for emphasis,

(5) with certain words (often an infinitive verb or a non-countable emotion, era, etc.) in certain formal positive sentences.

(Note: unless you have seen MUCH used with a certain word, don’t assume it is acceptable! If in doubt, use “a lot/a lot of”!)

NOTICE that you can substitute “A LOT OF” for MUCH, ANY, or MANY in most sentences. However, some teachers say “a lot” is too informal for academic writing. Often, the best solution is to rewrite the sentence without being so vague! Instead of “Articles give students much/a lot of trouble,” write: “Students often have trouble using articles.”


These are correct:

not much (negative, with non-countable nouns)

much? (question with non-countable noun)

         Is there much water? (positive question)

         Isn’t there much water? (negative question)

too much (large quantity of a non-countable noun)

much of the time/dynasty/etc (be careful with this one!) 

as much…as (comparing non-countable nouns)

much …er (better, richer, higher,…)(before a comparitive)

much more (before a comparative, NOT a thing)

much + infinitive (to say, to do, to learn)

like/love + noun + very much (to say you really like sth)


Examples of much/many/a lot: (every word in the parentheses is acceptable; if a choice is not in the parentheses, don’t use it!)

There was not (much, a lot of, any) electricity when my Grandpa went to school.

Classical music is (much, a lot ) better than rock-n-roll.

Those small kids play (much, a lot of ) of the time. 

Qin family members were officials during much of the Qing Dynasty.

Sue is (much, a lot ) more intelligent than Bill.

There will not be (much, any, a lot of ) music in our room this term.

I would not have (much, a lot ) to worry about if I were rich.

■ There is (much, a lot ) to present before I finish.

There is too much poverty in the world.

They run as much as 40 kilometers per day.

Is there (any, much ) food? 

Isn’t there (any, much ) water left?


Places where non-native speakers have trouble:

They will have (a lot of ) power after the election. (Don't use "much")

There is (a lot of ) cool air in this room.  (Don't use "much")

There will be (much, a lot of ) discussion after they watch this movie.

We have much more apples than we had last year. (Don't use "much")


Sources include:

THE GRAMMAR BOOK: An ESL/EFL Teacher’s Course, Marianne Celce-Murcia & Diane Larsen-Freeman, Heinle & Heinle, USA, second edition 1999. (This thick book is where I turn when I want a definitive answer to a grammar question.)

REFERENCE HANDBOOK ON GRAMMAR & USAGE, Scott, Foresman and Company, Glenview, IL, 1972. (I got this as a high school student, and still refer to it for its clear explanations. If you can find a copy, it is a great reference book!)


This resource was created for our students under my understanding of "fair use" for educational resources.  

© 2007 Michael Krigline, all rights reserved. As far as I am concerned, people are allowed to print/copy it for personal or classroom use.

 (see Website Standards and Use Policy)

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