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What is the difference between "Lots" and "A lot"?

For instance:

I've got a lot of apples
I've got lots of apples

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Thank you all for your answers. But what is the formal expression if they are not formal as some mentioned? –  Huda. Dec 30 '13 at 23:32
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@user60947 If you want to ask a question, you can do so using the Ask Question link. You can cite this question in your own question. –  KitFox Dec 30 '13 at 23:42
    
Many apples is the usual formal construction. –  Anonym Mar 28 at 7:45

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I think informally, they have the same meaning.

However, the phrase "a lot" refers to an indeterminate unit of measure (which may in certain contexts actually be determinate, e.g. land measurements).

So, technically, "lots of" should be more than "a lot of", since the latter refers to a single unit of measure, and the former refers to multiple units of the same measure (if used in the same context).

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That's an interesting point. +1. –  Mehper C. Palavuzlar Oct 8 '10 at 14:46

There is no difference. They have the same meaning.

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I agree they are essentially the same. I think "lots of" might sometimes be considered slightly less formal, but then again, the American Heritage Dictionary considers both forms informal. –  Peter Eisentraut Oct 8 '10 at 10:47
    
I would indeed regard both as informal, but 'lots' as more informal than 'a lot'. –  Colin Fine Oct 8 '10 at 14:39

Both phrases are very informal; however, there is a denotation for "lot" that indicates "a group" e.g. "a job lot" or, at an auction, one "unit" that is being bid upon.

This is not a very common definition outside of certain markets; dictionary.com gives it as "11. a distinct portion or parcel of anything, as of merchandise: The furniture was to be auctioned off in 20 lots."

Thus, it is entirely possible that "a lot of apples" could refer to a specific grouping of apples being sold or auctioned; if one purchases several of these, then one might refer entirely correctly to "lots of apples."

To avoid confusion, it may be better to use "many" and the verb "to have," e.g. "I have many apples."

You will almost certainly be understood with either of your phrases, but as they are colloquial they may not translate as precisely to non-native speakers as you may wish.

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The NOAD reports the following:

The expressions a lot of and lots of are used before nouns to mean a large number or amount of. In common with other words denoting quantities, lot itself does not normally function as a head noun, meaning that it does not itself determine whether the following verb is singular or plural. Thus, although lot is singular in a lot of people, the verb that follows is not singular. In this case, the word people acts as the head noun and, being plural, ensures that the following verb is also plural: a lot of people were assembled (not a lot of people was assembled).
A lot of and lots of are very common in speech and writing, but they still have a distinctly informal feel and are generally not considered acceptable for formal English, where alternatives such as many or a large number are used instead.
Written as one word, alot is incorrect, although not uncommon.

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The phrase " A LOT OF" is a determiner used to identify if the noun that comes after the phrase is plural or singular. In the sentence "A lot of work are missing." The word "work which is an abstract noun (both countable and uncountable noun)refers to a number of work finished in class, I would say the verb which comes after the noun should be plural because the work referred to -are many following the grammar rule "A plural noun takes a plural verb".

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