Basic English Grammar: Amount vs. Number

Amount vs. Number - At first glance, amount and number look similar since they both are used in reference to the quantity of something. This similarity sometimes makes some English learners do the common mistake, thinking that they both are interchangeable. Well, if you do not want to make the same mistake in writing, then you can learn more about the difference of amount and number in the following discussion.

amount vs number

Amount vs. number grammar rules

Amount vs. Number Grammar Rules

Amount should be used in reference to mass nouns or uncountable nouns such as time, money, water, feeling, quality, and a substance. Here are the following examples of using amount:

    I spend equal amounts of time in London and Edinburgh.
    His case has attracted an enormous amount of public sympathy.
    To keep you fit, try reducing the amount of fat in your daily diet.
    Mark encountered a fair amount of envy among her friends.
    I just need a small amount of water to add.

Number should be used in reference to countable nouns such as bag, apple, wristwatch, and year. Here are some examples of using amount:

    Sandra and I have been friends for a number of years.
    This year, the numbers of cars on our road are rising dramatically.
    A large number of people have applied for the job.
    Huge numbers of animals have died in the last forest fires.
    What number of water do you need?

You can use either “a/an + adjective + amount/number of” or “adjective + amounts/numbers of” forms. Both forms are acceptable.

    This computer server is designed to store huge amounts of data. (correct)
    This computer server is designed to store a huge amount of data. (correct)
    A large number of protesters descended on central London demanding a “people’s vote” on Brexit. (correct)
    Large numbers of people descended on central London demanding a “people’s vote” on Brexit. (correct)

Is it a number of or the number of?

Use a number of when you are referring to the group in general. A number of should be followed by a plural verb.

    A number of farmers are demonstrating over fertilizer delays.
    An increasing number of smart-phones are now running Android.
    The report discusses a number of important matters that help improving student’s motivation.

Generally, the number of is used when you are describing the size of the objects (change in number). The number of should be followed by a singular verb.

    The number of farmers in our country is decreasing.
    The number of people who employed in agriculture has fallen in the last two decades.
    The number of people claiming unemployment benefit had risen since last year.

Common adjectives preceding amount and number

The most common adjectives often followed by amount of and number of are: large, small, huge, enormous, considerable, fair, certain, small, tiny, and any.

    A small number of students have signed up for the English course.
    She is having trouble sleeping tonight after drank large amounts of coffee.
    I could give you any number of (= a lot of) reason for not accepting that job.

That’s all our discussion about amount vs. number that might help you understand both words for a better writing. If you are looking for more English lessons about English grammar rules, vocabularies, and text genres, you can click the related category given or visit ContohText’s index page.

“Amount, Number.” Microsoft Student 2009. DVD. Redmond, WA, USA: Microsoft Corporation, 2008.
In text: (“Amount, Number”)