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For what values of x does one write the number of x, the amount of x, or the quantity of x?

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4  
I can't believe this question hasn't been asked yet. –  SLaks Jan 20 '11 at 20:35
    
While not the same, it's similar to: english.stackexchange.com/questions/8854/… –  oosterwal Jan 21 '11 at 19:46

3 Answers 3

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Number is used with plural nouns, things that can be counted.

I saw a number of pigeons on the shed this morning.

Amount is normally used for nouns that can't be measured.

The amount of animosity generated by his comments was out of all proportion to his words.

But it can also be used for things that can be measured (as @psmears points out below), especially money:

Please send your payment in the amount of $253.79.

Quantity is used for nouns you can measure.

I have a large quantity of pumpkins for sale.*

It is pretty much synonymous with number.

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6  
I'm not sure that's quite right - "I have a large amount of sugar" is fine, even though the sugar can most definitely be measured. I would have used "number" for countable nouns, "amount" for uncountable (including money), and quantity as you say for things that can be measured (which might be either countable or uncountable)... –  psmears Jan 21 '11 at 12:52

I was taught:

number is used for countable nouns:

  • the number of boxes
  • the number of universes

amount is used for singular nouns that represent plural concepts (uncountable nouns):

  • the amount of sand
  • the amount of cereal
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Much vs. Many

Fewer vs. Less

Amount vs. Number vs. Quantity

Use the words 'many', 'fewer', and 'number' when the object is countable (no matter how big that number may be.) "There are many creatures in the ocean."

Use the words 'much', 'less', and 'amount' when the object is measurable, but not countable. "There is much water in the ocean."

'Quantity' is more technical and can be used for both countable and uncountable things. "What is the quantity of water in the ocean?" "What is the quantity of whales in the ocean?"

"Mary bought fewer gallons of milk than Jane, therefor Mary has less milk than Jane."

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1  
I disagree with both of your examples of quantity. –  SLaks Jan 21 '11 at 20:02
1  
You misspelled therefore. –  SLaks Jan 21 '11 at 20:02
    
@SLaks: Yes, I did... –  oosterwal Jan 21 '11 at 20:13

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