Quantifiers can cause confusion for a few reasons.
1. First, students have to recall which expressions go with which nouns – countable or uncountable. We say a good number of students but a great deal of difficulty.
2. Second, there’s the matter of register. Many is more suitable for formal English than a bunch of.
3. Third, meanings overlap and can also be surprising. How many ways can we refer to a large quantity? A lot of people means the same thing as lots of people and plenty of people. But a few people is very different from few people.
I’ve already suggested some activities to help students develop a stronger understanding of quantifiers. Meaningful practice and a review of guidelines will help them use these expressions correctly…at least most of the time.
- See my Pack Rat Survey for intermediate students. Review common quantifiers used for count and noncount nouns.
- Take a look at another activity for more advanced students. Who Makes the World Go Round? reviews additional quantifying expressions for count and noncount nouns.
- Consider my thoughts on similar quantifiers: lots of, a lot of, and plenty of. Student Stumper 7.
One more aspect may also confuse students: using OF in quantifying expressions. In fact, a recent error correction task I posted on Facebook ended up posing a challenge because of this. Honestly, I didn’t expect students to stumble over my use of “most.” I found myself explaining the difference between most people and most of the people more than once.
4. Students need to understand how OF often helps us make a reference to a specific group. For example, talking about most people is a general reference, while most of the people in my town refers to a specific group.
If you’d like to review this last point with your students, please take a look at my Most of Us_handout.