Understanding Grammar: Quantifiers
In this week's Premier Skills English Podcast, Jack and Rich talk about collecting things and quantifiers. These are the words we use to describe the amount of something. We use different quantifiers depending if the noun is countable or uncountable and some quantifiers can be used with both types of noun. Your task this week is to tell us about two things that you collected when you were younger. Don't forget to listen to the end of the podcast because we have a new football phrase for you to guess. Enjoy!
Opening - Quantifiers
Rich: Have you ever collected anything, Jack?
Jack: I used to collect coins, I think I still have a few of them.
Rich: Those coins could be worth a bit of money. You should take them to a collector.
Jack: Why are you asking?
Rich: I’m reading about some of the things footballers collect.
Jack: Oh, I bet they have some great collections. I read once about a player that has collected football shirts from every professional match they’ve ever played in. He has hundreds of them!
Rich: A nightmare to wash I imagine!
Jack: Yeah, very good. So, who are you reading about?
Rich: Actually, none of these collections are connected to football.
Rich: I tell you what, I’ll give you a challenge. I’ll give you five football names and a collection and you tell me whose collection it is.
Jack: OK, let’s go.
Rich: OK, hold on. Let me look at the article. So, the people are Manchester Utd’s Paul Pogba, Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, ex-Manchester Utd player David Beckham and the Watford Chairman and singer Elton John.
Jack: Well, I know one of them. Mesut Ozil collects trainers. He has loads of them. In fact, I think he has thousands of trainers.
Rich: You’re right. OK, who collects modern art? This person has several works of art by some of the most famous modern artists of this century.
Jack: I’ll go with Elton John for that one.
Rich: No, it’s actually David Beckham. OK, who collects caps? This person has a large number of them and I’ve heard he never wears the same one twice.
Jack: You can never have enough caps. I’m going to go with Paul Pogba.
Rich: Nope it’s Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Right, who collects glasses.
Jack: Glasses to drink from or glasses that help you see?
Rich: Glasses you wear. This person has a quarter of a million of them.
Jack: OK, I’m going to go with Elton John again.
Rich: You’re right. He has 250,000 pairs of glasses. No problem if he loses a few pairs!
Jack: That means Paul Pogba collects cars.
Rich: Yep, he has a fleet of cars probably worth a bit more than your coin collection.
Jack: Probably, but you never know!
Welcome - Quantifiers
Rich: Hello my name’s Rich
Jack: and I’m Jack
Rich: and welcome to this week’s Premier Skills English podcast
Jack: Where we talk about football and help you with your English.
Jack: What’s happening this week, Rich?
Rich: In this week’s podcast, we’re going to help you with some grammar. We’re going to talk about quantifiers.
Jack: Quantifiers are words that we use to give the number of a noun or the quantity of it.
Rich: In the opening dialogue we used quantifiers a lot, for example, Jack said; ‘Mesut Ozil has loads of trainers’ and I said, ‘Those coins could be worth a bit of money’.
Jack: The quantifiers here are loads of and a bit of.
Rich: Some quantifiers are only used with uncountable nouns like ‘a bit of’ while others are only used with countable nouns and some like ‘loads of’ can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns.
Jack: We’ll talk more about quantifiers in the language focus later.
Rich: First, we’re going to do talk about the things we used to collect.
Jack: Don’t forget to listen to the end of the podcast because we have this week’s football phrase for you to guess.
Jack: You are going to listen to two roleplays. We are both going to speak about things we collected when we were younger.
Rich: Jack will speak first and then me. While you are listening, we would like you to answer these three questions.
Rich: Question one: What did Jack use to collect?
Jack: Question two: What did Rich use to collect?
Rich: And question three: Have you ever collected any of these things?
Jack: Let me think … when I was a kid I collected coins. I had loads of coins from all over the place. I had plenty from Europe; Francs from France, Deutschmarks from Germany, Pesetas from Spain.
Rich: You can’t use them now though.
Jack: No, they all use the Euro now, but I didn’t want to spend them anyway. I had a few from further afield too. I had a couple of coins from India and several from Australia and New Zealand.
Rich: Did you have a favourite?
Jack: I did actually. I had a few coins with holes in the middle that I thought were really cool. I think a couple were from Japan and maybe another few from Spain or Greece., I’m not sure. Anyway, I put them on string and wore them around my neck.
Rich: Do you still have them?
Jack: Not sure. Maybe my dad has them somewhere in his house. Maybe they are worth a bit of money?
Rich: Did you ever collect anything else?
Jack: Mmm, not sure I suppose I collected music, too.
Jack: Yeah, I had a huge collection of records. I used to go to the shops and buy a couple every weekend.
Rich: Did you listen to music a lot?
Jack: Actually, I don’t think I listened to that much music but I definitely collected a large amount of it!
Rich: Do you still have the records?
Jack: I think I have a few, yes, but I can’t listen to them because I don’t have a record player. They’re probably at my dad’s house with the coins!
Jack: What about you? What did you use to collect?
Rich: This might sound a little strange, but I collected sand when I was little.
Jack: Sand? Why?
Rich: Well, I didn’t spend a great deal of time at the beach when I was young because it was so far away. So, when we did go, a couple of times a year, it was special and I’d always collect a little sand before we went home.
Jack: Is it not the same everywhere you go?
Rich: No, every beach is different. I had lots of yellow sand but also plenty of pebbly sand with lots of little stones or pebbles, I had a small amount of grey sand and I even had a bit of black sand from a family holiday in Tenerife in Spain. It’s a volcanic island. That was my favourite for sure.
Jack: Do you still have it?
Rich: No, my little sister threw it all away when I left home for university. I’m still angry now!
Jack: Ha ha! Did you ever collect anything else?
Rich: When I was about nine or ten I collected football stickers. I was a football-mad kid. I still have quite a few of the albums in the attic, I think. I never finished them though. There was always a small number of stickers missing - just a couple usually. It was always difficult to find the sticker for the Liverpool striker, Ian Rush, for some reason.
Jack: Ian Rush? Who is he? Only joking. If anyone can send us a football sticker of Ian Rush from around 1986, Rich would be very happy!
Rich: Yes, I would!
Jack: You just listened to us speaking about things we used to collect when we were children. While we were speaking we used lots of quantifiers.
Rich: Remember, a quantifier is a word that we use to give the number of a noun or the quantity of it.
Jack: We use different quantifiers to describe small and big quantities and different quantifiers with countable and uncountable nouns.
Rich: Jack spoke about collecting coins and I spoke about collecting football stickers. Both of these are countable nouns so let’s start by looking at some of the quantifiers we use with countable nouns.
Jack: Let’s start with quantifiers to describe small quantities with countable nouns.
Rich: In the previous section, Jack said, ‘I had a few coins with a hole in the middle’ and ‘I had a couple from India and several from Australia and New Zealand’.
Jack: When Rich was talking about football stickers he said, ‘I still have quite a few of the albums’ and ‘there was always a small number of stickers missing’.
Rich: All of these phrases; a few, a couple, a couple of, several quite a few and a small number of are quantifiers we use to talk about small amounts of countable nouns.
Jack: Quite a few is an interesting phrase. We use this to talk about small amounts but we use it to tell people that we have more than they thought. It often surprises the speaker.
Rich: Hey Jack have you ever met anyone famous?
Jack: I’ve actually met quite a few famous people.
Rich: In this sentence, Jack might only have met three or four people but I thought he would have met no famous people so I am surprised. Who have you met then?
Jack: No one. It was just an example!
Rich: How disappointing! Right, now let’s talk about quantifiers with uncountable nouns to describe small amounts.
Jack: In the previous section, I spoke about music and Rich spoke about collecting sand. Both of these are uncountable nouns. We also used quantifiers with some other uncountable nouns.
Rich: In the previous section, Jack said, ‘I don’t think I listened to that much music’ and ‘the collection might be worth a bit of money’.
Jack: And Rich said, ‘I had a small amount of grey sand’ and ‘a bit of black sand’.
Rich: There are some quantifiers about small amounts that we only use with uncountable nouns. Some examples are: ‘a bit of’, ‘a bit’, ‘not much’, ‘a little’ and ‘a small amount of’.
Jack: Let’s now look at quantifiers we use to talk about large numbers or amounts.
Rich: One key difference are the words ‘amount’ and ‘number’. When we describe countable nouns we say ‘a large number of’ but when we describe uncountable nouns we say ‘a small amount of’.
Jack: I have a large amount of music and Rich has a large number of sticker albums.
Rich: Another useful phrase to use with uncountable nouns and especially abstract nouns is ‘a great deal of’. I didn’t spend ‘a great deal of time at the beach when I was young’.
Jack: It is often used in quite formal contexts.
Rich: You might read or write things such as, ‘A great deal of research has been done …’ or ‘She has a great deal of knowledge in the field of …’
Jack: When we use numbers to quantify nouns we can only describe countable nouns, for example when we say ‘hundreds of’, ‘thousands of’ or millions of’.
Rich: Lots of these phrases we are using use ‘of’. The word of is always weak; we don’t pronounce it fully. Listen to those last phrases again. Millions of, thousands of, hundreds of.
Jack: Can I have a bit of milk in my tea, please?
Rich: I’ve got loads of money.
Jack: Have you really got a lot of money?
Rich: Lots of people love watching football.
Jack: If you are not saying a number, you can use the same quantifier with countable and uncountable nouns for large amounts.
Rich: I had lots of yellow sand and plenty of pebbly sand.
Jack: I had loads of coins and plenty from Europe.
Rich: Quantifiers such as, ‘lots’, ‘a lot of’, ‘lots of’, ‘loads’, and ‘plenty of’ can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns.
Jack: One thing to remember is that ‘loads’ or ‘loads of’ is very informal with ‘a lot of’ being a more neutral term to use in more formal situations.
Rich: We have loads of, lots of, plenty more activities on the website for you to practise and understand quantifiers.
Jack: This week’s task is to tell us about two things you collected when you were younger.
Rich: If possible we’d like you to choose one thing that is countable and another thing that is uncountable.
Jack: This will allow you to use the quantifiers that we have been talking about in this lesson.
Rich: Write your comments at the bottom of the page on www.britishcouncil.org/premierskillsenglish
Rich: Have you got a football phrase for us this week?
Jack: Yes, I have, but first, last week’s football phrase. The phrase was 'set-piece'. Set-pieces are things like corners and free-kicks. It was an easy one and loads of you got it right.
Rich: Well done to Lakerwang from China, Sabanoleg and Liubomyr from Ukraine, Acicala from Sapin, aid from India, Kwesimanifest from Ghana, Elghoul from Algeria and Ahmed Adam from Sudan. You all got it right! What’s this week’s phrase, Jack?
Jack: This week’s football phrase is ********* *****. A ********* ***** is usually played when a player has been at a club for 10 years. In the past, the money raised was used for the player’s retirement but these days it’s more common to give the money to charity. Manchester City, captain, Vincent Kompany has a ********* ***** soon and he is going to give all the profits to homeless people in Manchester.
Rich: That’s a nice way to finish this week’s podcast. Don’t forget to write your answers to the task in the comments section below.
Jack: And make a guess at our football phrase. Bye for now and enjoy your football!
How much did you understand?
In the podcast, Rich and Jack used some words and phrases that might be new for you. Do you know the words in bold?
Manchester Utd's Paul Pogba has a fleet of cars.
I had a few coins from further afield, too.
When I was nine or ten, I collected football stickers.
There were a few more tricky words and phrases in the podcast. Do you know what they all mean? Try the activity below, then, listen to the podcast again to hear how we used the words. This can really help your understanding.
In this week's podcast, Jack and Rich spoke about quantifiers. We often use different quantifiers to describe countable nouns and uncountable nouns. Look at the example sentences from the podcast:
Describing small quantities of countable nouns:
I had a few coins with a hole in the middle.
I had a couple from India and several from Australia and New Zealand.
Describing small quantities of uncountable nouns:
The collection might be worth a bit of money.
I had a small amount of grey sand.
Describing large quantities of countable nouns:
Rich had a large number of sticker albums.
Arsenal's Mesut Ozil has thousands of trainers.
Describing large quantities of uncountable nouns:
I didn't spend a great deal of time at the beach when I was younger.
Jack has a large amount of music in his dad's attic.
Take a look at the following activity to check your understanding of quantifiers. Can you choose the right quantifier?
Quantifiers that can be used with countable and uncountable nouns
There are some quantifiers that can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns. These are usually used to describe large amounts that are non-specific. Take a look at the sentences below. Can you try to complete the sentences using countable and uncountable nouns? You may need to use more than one word to complete the sentences.
Don't worry! I have loads of ___________ in the fridge.
We have plenty of ___________. You don't need to bring anything.
A lot of the ___________ in the second half.
I haven't had enough ___________ today.
Much, Many & Enough
Two of the most common quantifiers when describing countable nouns are 'much' and 'many'. Remember that we use 'many' with countable nouns and 'much' with uncountable nouns. They are often used in negative sentences and questions along with 'enough' (which can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns). Take a look at these examples:
I don't have much money.
I don't have many days left until my holiday.
Have you enough time to finish this activity?
Take a look at the next activity. Can you choose the right words for each gap?
This week's task is to write about two things you collected when you were younger. Try to choose one thing that is countable and another which us uncountable. This will help you use more of the quantifiers we used in this week's podcast.
When you describe your collections answer these questions:
- When did you collect these things?
- How big was your collection?
- Was your collection complete?
- Do you still have these things?
Write your answers in the comments section below.