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When should I use "amount" as opposed to "number"?

When media are referring to number rather than volume, they often use the word "amount" rather than number, as in "a large amount of people" Is this correct? Is this Preferred? Is this acceptable?

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  • Here's a few good sources. And that last link was even from this site. Links from a simple Google search by the way...
    – fuandon
    Aug 1, 2014 at 18:43
  • While not incorrect in it's present form, you're indeed right- "a large number of people " would be the better usage. Just as amount would be better here a large amount of rain. Aug 1, 2014 at 19:04

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The rule I use is the same is for making the less/fewer distinction: number refers to a discrete quantity, typically an integer; amount refers to a measurable, but uncountable quantity.

So: an amount of sand, water, concrete; a number of grains of sand, gallons of water, yards of concrete.

If you can have "one" of them, you can have a number of them (or "fewer" of them).

If you need to put it into a container to count it, you have an amount of it (or "less" of it).

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