7

We say "I have plenty of apples." But why not "I have plenty apples?" This would follow the pattern of "I have enough apples." "I have too few apples." "I have too many apples." In all of these cases, I would only use 'of' in special cases, like "I have too much of this." But with 'plenty', 'of' is the default rather than the exception. Why is this?

3
  • 3
    I have had enough of this nonsense. I have had too much of his criticism. But There is plenty more in the cupboard There seems little rhyme nor reason to this. A skilled grammarian could probably make sense of it, but as a native speaker I am afraid that I rely on instinct, which rarely lets me down.
    – WS2
    Jun 21, 2015 at 20:49
  • 1
    @WS2 yeah, it seems that non-plenty words use 'of' before a pronoun, but plenty uses it before regular nouns... "Plenty more" is a whole 'nother can of worms.
    – Caleb
    Jun 21, 2015 at 20:59
  • 2
    There are lots of, oodles of, a lot of, a lack of; a couple / pair / brace / score / gross of. But the differences are intriguing. Jun 21, 2015 at 21:45

3 Answers 3

4

Questions about idiomatic usage are difficult to answer with assurance, but "plenty" came into English from the Old French, and likely the Normans used an "of" equivalent. They got the word from the Latin plenus, full, and nouns following that word take the genitive case.

1
  • 1
    still used in modern French: il y plein de choses à faire (there are plenty of things to do).
    – nico
    Jun 22, 2015 at 7:27
2

Probably a construction which dates back from its origins. The use without of is very informal.

Plenty (n.)

  • mid-13c., "as much as one could desire," from Old French plentee, earlier plentet "abundance, profusion" (12c., Modern French dialectal plenté), from Latin plenitatem (nominative plenitas) "fullness," from plenus "complete, full" (see plenary). Meaning "condition of general abundance" is from late 14c. The colloquial adverb meaning "very much" is first attested 1842. Middle English had parallel formation plenteth, from the older Old French form of the word. (Etymonline)

Plenty of : (Usage note:)

  • The construction plenty of is standard in all varieties of speech and writing: plenty of room in the shed. The use of plenty preceding a noun, without an intervening of, first appeared in the late 19th century: plenty room in the shed.It occurs today chiefly in informal speech. As an adverb, a use first recorded in the mid-19th century, plenty is also informal and is found chiefly in speech or written representations of speech.

(Random House Dictionary)

2
  • 1
    Does this really answer the question? Just asking... Jun 21, 2015 at 23:58
  • @medica - it assumes that it is a construction inherited from its usage In the past, and it is the only answer that offers a bit of reference, (unlike the other two) .
    – user66974
    Jun 22, 2015 at 9:01
2

Plenty in ME was (at first) not an adjective but a noun, meaning "fullness, abundance". When conjoined with another noun, it would take 'of' in its partitive genitive sense, e.g. plenty of time, as we today would say "with an abundance of caution".

2
  • 1
    Huh! So I guess the real question might be, when and why did we stop treating plenty as a noun (kind of)?
    – Caleb
    Jun 21, 2015 at 22:20
  • 1
    @Caleb Bernard: We didn't stop using plenty that way (there are plenty of examples that show we didn't) but plenty did become for English speakers a synonym for "much" or "much too" and thus an adverb That plate is plenty full for me, thanks. and There's plenty more where that came from and for some speakers an adjective too There's plenty work to do though in my dialect I don't hear it used adjectivally, only as a noun and as an adverb.
    – TRomano
    Jun 21, 2015 at 22:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.