The actual amounts referred to by expressions of quantity can be vague and hard to pin down. Below is a chart of quantity expressions listed in a divided continuum from completely negative (“none”) to very positive (“a vast number of”). Numerous quantity expressions exist other than those shown here, but it is hoped that this chart will show the most important ones and give a feeling for their relative amounts. Most of these expressions have a wide range in meaning, so this chart should not be considered to show a perfect ordering or a perfect list of equivalents. Still, it should be a fairly useful guide. Note that “some” is not included in the chart. This is because “some” has a very wide range of positive meaning that includes anything from “a tiny bit” to “a lot.” And, because of this lack of specificity, it is not often used to express a particular quantity of something.
A ranking of quantity expressions
|Cake? No, sorry. There is none left.|
Cake? No, there isn’t any left.
|very few/ very little||Was it crowded? No, there were very few people there. It was almost empty.|
Unfortunately, we had very little time at the museum and couldn’t see what we came to see.
Few people will be at the beach today and we’ll have it nearly all to ourselves.
No, I never found the answer. There was little information about it on their website.
|one or two|
a very few
a little bit
a tiny bit
|Yes, one or two people asked about it.|
Yes, there is a little bit of cake left.
Oh, yes. There is a tiny bit of spinach between your teeth!
A very few people came in late, but it wasn’t a problem.
a number of
|Yes, there are a few slices of pizza left. Go ahead and take what you’d like.|
A number of people said they were interested in my paintings. I’m very excited.
We still have a bit of cheese. Would you like some?
We have a little time, so let’s get a cup of coffee.
|a fair number/ a fair amount/ several||Yes, a fair number of people have asked me that question.|
Yes, we spent a fair amount of time figuring that out.
Yes. Several packages came today. Four or five, I think.
|quite a few/ quite a bit/ several/ a surprising number/ a surprising amount||Yes, it cost quite a bit of money. It certainly wasn’t cheap!|
Yes, a surprising amount of time is needed to fix these small things.
|a good number/ a good deal of||Yes, we spent a good deal of time trying to figure out how to get to places we wanted to go to. It was pretty confusing.|
We were pleased that a good number of young people attended the town meeting.
|many/ a lot/ a great deal of/ much||Yes, many friends of theirs came to the wedding. We hardly got to speak to the newlyweds at all.|
A great deal of effort went into this project and we’re grateful to all those who participated.
|a vast number of/|
a vast amount of
| A vast number of people, perhaps millions, will be affected by this decision.|
It will take a vast amount of money to fix this problem.
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