Tema 19- Expresión de la cantidad

Tema 19- Expresión de la cantidad


Countable nouns: are nouns denoting countable phenomena, that is, nouns denoting things that can be counted. Such concepts refer to either

a) Material things: house, horse, flower

b) Immaterial things: sound, day, idea

Uncountable nouns: are nouns denoting non-countable phenomena, that is, nouns denoting concepts that cannot be counted. These words do not call up the idea of any definite thing, having a certain shape or precise limits. They may be either

a) Material: they denote some stuff or substance in itself independent of form: silver, water, butter

b) Immaterial: leisure, music, traffic and most words ending in –tion, -ment, and -ness.

Other grammarians such as Quirk define these concepts from a functional point of view: Thus, the distinction between countable and uncountable can be made on the following bases:

  1. Countables in singular can take the following determiners between them: a, another, every, each, either and one. The following determiners can be used with plural countables: these, those, both, few, many, several and cardinal numbers. Uncountables can take such determiners as much, little, some and any.

– A man

– Many men

– Much information

– * One information

– * Much man.

– How many cars has he got?

– How much sugar do you want?

  1. Countables may occur with the plural morpheme and if they do, they are referred to by means of a plural pronoun and when they are in the function of subject, they take a plural verb

– These houses are very comfortable, but they are also very expensive.

Uncountables do not occur with the plural morpheme. They are referred to by a singular pronoun and taken a singular verb when they are used as the subject of the sentence

– Reliable information is hard to come by, but it is essential

  1. Countables are nearly always preceded by some determiner, where as uncountables may be freely without any determiner:

– You cannot live long without water

Possibilities for uncountable nouns to become countables:

  1. A great number of words may stand for something countable and in another for something uncountable

Countable Uncountable

CAKE a cake/many cakes much cake

TIN a tin of sardines a tank made of tin

CHEESE two big cheeses a little more cheese

ICE have an ice there is no ice left

  1. In other instances the uncountables cannot be used as countable: clay, linen, gunpowder
  1. In some cases we have 2 words closely connected, one for the countable concept and another for the uncountable one.

Countable Uncountable

a loaf bread

calf veal

pig pork

sheep mutton

ox beef

deer venison

How to express quantity and separated units in uncountable concepts:

There is some difficulty in expressing quantity or separated items of uncountable concepts. There are some ways to do it:

  1. With regard to plural uncountables “ a great quantity of”, “a great deal of”, “a great amount of” or similar expressions can be used. There is also some tendency to use “much” as a determiner with them.

– Much spirits must be required.

  1. Some uncountables may also be used as countables, but this is not always possible. As it is often desirable to single out things consisting of some mass, this must then be done by means of expressions such as: a piece, a bit, an article, a lump, an act:

– A piece of furniture

– A lump of sugar

– An act of kindness

– A can of beer

– A plot of land

– A stoke of luck

– A drop of water

– A flake of snow

  1. The plural of some uncountables may be used:

a) To express intensity, great quantity or extent

– The sands of the desert

b) To denote different kinds or degrees of the idea expressed

– What wines have you got today? (What kinds of?)

Indefinite pronouns and determiners:

They are primarily used attributively but they can also be used independently. The indefinite pronoun “none” is chiefly used independently and “every” attributively. Some of these pronouns express various degrees of indefiniteness (some, any, one) while some others can be called distributive (each, every, either).

The general function of the indefinite pronouns is to group ideas into an aggregate (all, both, some) or to single out the elements of an aggregate (each, every, any).

The classification of indefinite pronouns stated by Jerpersen is as follows:

  1. The pronoun of indefinite unity: one.
  2. The pronoun of difference: other.
  3. The pronoun of discretion: certain.
  4. The pronoun of unspecified quantity: some
  5. The pronouns of indifference: any, either.
  6. The pronouns of totality: positive: all, both, every, each, negative: no, none, neither.


1. It can be used attributively. It can be singular and plural. In the singular it may mean

a) a particular but unknown or unspecified person or thing

– Some fool has locked the door

b) a certain quantity of something

– He waited for some time

In the plural some denotes an indefinite number

– He ate some grapes.

2. It may also be used substantively

a) To denote a number of persons

– Some say yes, and some say no.

b) To denote persons or things, when followed by an of-adjunct with a singular uncountable or abstract noun or a plural countable noun.

– Some of the milk has turned sour (sing. uncoun.)

– Some of the children were badly undernourished (plu. coun.)

3. Some is used in questions when we expect an affirmative answer or we want to encourage people to say yes such as in offers.

– Would you like some beer?

4. Some is used adverbially before numerals meaning approximately:

– This happened some 40 years ago.


  1. It can be used attributively in negative, interrogative and conditional contexts. Like some it may be either singular or plural. It may also take an of-adjunct but it is not often used substantively

– I cannot see any difference between them

– Are there any old prints in the house?

– Let me know if you want any of us.

– Complaints, if any, have to be addressed to the management.

  1. It is also used as and adverb of degree before a comparative in a negative and interrogative context.

– I´ m sorry to say he isn´ t any better

  1. In an affirmative sentence any may be equivalent to an indefinite article. On the other hand, strong-stressed any is used in affirmative context in amending that invites comparison with every, it has the general meaning “no matter which”

– The story of a family can be as fascinating as any novel (indf. artc.)

– Any chemist will tell you it is poison (every = no matter which)


  1. It is only used attributively, chiefly before singular countable nouns. It adds up the individual members or elements of a definite or indefinite group. It always refers to more than 2.

– I expect every man to do his duty.

  1. It also occurs before word groups denoting recurrence in time or space.

– He comes here every there days.

  1. It may be used before an abstract noun in the sense of all possible

– He had every reason to be satisfied


It takes the members of a definite group one by one without adding them up. Like every, it is used attributively before singular countables but it may also be used substantively and followed by an of-adjunct. It may refer to 2 or more.

– Each student has a separate room.


It may be used attributively as well as substantively in the singular as well as in the plural.

  1. a) As an attributive singular, it is used before abstract material and other nouns to express quantity and may be paraphrased by “everything”.

– All his money was gone

b) As an attributive plural, it is used before plural countables in the sense of “without exception”.

– All the young men fell in love with her.

In both cases all may be followed by a definite article or by a possessive or demonstrative

  1. a) As a substantial singular, all may be paraphrased by “everything”.

– She knows all about it.

b) As a substantival plural, all may be paraphrased by “everybody”.

– All agree that he has behaved splendidly

In either case, it may take an of-adjunct. In the singular it is not often used without an adjunct or clause.

  1. All is also used adverbially meaning “wholly”.

– They were all covered (wholly covered).

English has 3 indefinite pronouns: both, either and neither that are used only with reference to 2 (persons or things).


  1. It can be used in the same way as plural “all”. Thus, it may be substantival and attributive

– Both men were found guilty

– Both agreed that the matter was over.

  1. It is used adverbially in the sense of with equal truth in both cases.

– She is both dead and buried.

EITHER means “ one or other of 2”

  1. It occurs specially in negative and interrogative contexts and when used in affirmative contexts it means “ no matter which”: it may be used attributively and substantively when followed by an of-adjunct.

– Have you seen any of them?

– Either of you can go.

  1. Either can be used adverbially to introduce an alternative:

– He is either drunk or mad.

In negative contexts in the sense of “any more than the other”.

– If you don´ t go, I shall not either.

NEITHER: either can be negatived by prefixing “n”. it means not either, not the one or the other.

  1. It is used attributively and substantively in the same way as either

– Neither description is correct

  1. It is also used adverbially to deny an alternative

– He is neither drunk nor mad.

In the sense of “any more than the other”, it is equivalent to “not…either”, though it usually ahs front position

– If you don´ t go, neither shall I.

NONE: either stands in much the same relation to any as neither to none.

1. However, none is not used attributively, it is used substantively. It may either stand by itself

– None are so deaf as those that will not hear.

Or refer to a singular or plural noun or pronoun that has been mentioned before

– You have money and I have none.

Or be followed by an of-adjunct

– None of us knew where the man had gone.

2.It is also used adverbially before a comparative and before so or too.

– The pay is none too high.

ONE: This word can have the following uses:

a) Numerical: One shot will be enough

b) Anaphoric: I lose a neighbour and you gain one.

c) Prop-word: my visit is a business one.

d) Indefinite: One should always do one´ s own duty.

But here we are only interested in the numerical and indefinite value of one.

  1. It can be an indefinite personal pronoun. It is “any person” representing people in general

– One must allow oneself a rest from time to time

Sometimes the emphasis is on the speaker rather than on people in general.

– One doesn´ t like to refuse an old friend.

  1. It may be followed by a personal proper name and it is equivalent to “ a certain”

– I bought it from one Mr. Stephens

  1. Personal one may be followed by an adjective

– He behaved like one mad

It may also be followed by an adjunct or a clause

– He was one of really superior intelligence.


  1. It is always used attributively, it is used in the sense of “not any”.

– There are no letters today

In this function “no” often negates the whole sentence rather than the noun it qualifies

  1. No may be used adverbially, this is specially the case before comparatives in –er

– His French is no better than mine.

Compound indefinite pronouns:

We have compounds with some, any, every and no with words such as body, one, thing, where and how. The difference between some and any also applies to their compounds somebody, anybody, someone, anyone, something, anything.


  1. Cardinal and ordinal numbers: Numerals have both open-class and closed-class characteristics. They can function either as determinatives or as heads in the noun phrase. The numeral system of cardinals is one, two… and the ordinals first, second etc.

– Cardinal numbers from 1 to 13 and 2o, 30, 50, 100 and 100 are unsystematic and have to be learnt as individual items. Cardinal numbers from 14 to 99 are largely systematic since they are formed by adding the ending in –teen, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 and 90 are formed by the ending –ty.


The spelling shifts in: four, fourteen-forty.

The pronunciation and spelling changes in:

Five/faiv/ fifteen /i/ fifty /i/

Ordinal numbers from 1 to 3 are unsystematic: fist, second, third. The rest are formed by adding –th to the cardinal numerals. Cardinal numerals ending in –y change to –ie before –th.

Both cardinal and ordinal numerals can function like pronouns or like postdeterminers:

– Five is an odd number

– There are 57 people on board.

  1. Hundred, thousand, million: One has an unstressed variant a:

– One/ a hundred dollars

However, only one can be used after another numeral and usually in the low year dates:

– One/ a thousand one hundred

– 169 BC: One hundred (and) sixty-nine BC

They can be used as quantity nouns with plural –s and followed by of.

– Ten million viewers saw the fight on TV

– Millions of people are starving

  1. Fractions:

½ a/ one half

1/3 a/ one third

¼ a/ one quarter

1/5 a/ one fifth

2/3 two-thirds

7/8 seven eighths

3 ¾ three and three quarter

8/76 eight over seventy- six/ eight seventy- sixths

Hyphens are often used particularly in premodification.

– A three-quarter mile

Hyphens are not used with the indefinite article: thus one-third but a third

In decimal fractions the whole numerals are read out in the usual way but the numerals to the right of the decimal point are read out as single digits:

– 71.53 seventy-one point five three