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This morning, I corrected my little son on his use of much.

I don't have much Star Wars guys.

He seems to use this word quite frequently in place of many, although he doesn't often use many in place of much.

As I reflected on the general rule - much for continuous and many for discrete - I thought about how it's the same rule that I use for less or fewer.

Now there is an interminable debate over the distinction of less and fewer, which it seems boils down to less is always fine, and so I wonder if there is the same debate for their opposites (though I've never heard of it).

How often is much substituted for many? Is it often enough to be considered acceptable usage?

  • Using "much" there is very alarming but I've seen it done. I always assumed the offender was not a native speaker, but I guess that's not necessarily the case. – Matt Samuel Dec 19 '15 at 15:01
  • I never (to my knowledge) use 'much' with a count-usage or 'many' with a noncount-usage. 'There were many miles left to travel' but 'Twenty miles is a long way to walk'. // This contrasts with the idiomatic 'That's one less problem for us to have to solve' etc. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 19 '15 at 15:32
  • There's been a steady decline over the past century and more for the relative frequency of are fewer than as compared to are less than. I think it's unlikely this reflects a significant change in average context - it seems pretty obvious to me that less people like using fewer in contexts where their parents did. – FumbleFingers Dec 19 '15 at 15:46
  • Fewer is for things you count, and less is for things you don’t count. Many is for things you count and much is for things you don't count. – DavidPostill Dec 19 '15 at 16:45
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    The much/many distinction seems to be a real one in (most people's) English, and I don't see a decline in it. The insistence on fewer for count nouns seems to go back to 1770, and I'm not convinced that it is part of anybody's English before the pedagogues get at them. – Colin Fine Dec 19 '15 at 17:36
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The Grammarist hints at this 'ungrammatical' usage. It appears it may appeal to young people, probably because of usage, for instance, in rap/hip hop lyrics:

Much vs many:

  • There is little controversy around the many-much distinction, and it is borne out with only rare exceptions. You might occasionally encounter a much dollars or a much people, but few English speakers use such constructions out of habit.

  • The distinction can be tricky in a few rare instances.

    • For example, while many thanks is more common than much thanks, the latter appears fairly often because we can think of this thanks as a mass noun (synonymous with gratitude) that takes a plural form by convention. Of course we can also think of thanks as an abbreviation of the plural noun thank-yous, in which case many is appropriate.

    • And then there are singular mass nouns that sound plural. Kudos, for one, is a mass noun that happens to end in s, so the phrase many kudos is more common (on the web) than much kudos even though the latter is more logical.

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    Bottom line: you can't interchange them and stay grammatically correct. Ever. Correct me if I'm wrong! (But I'm pretty sure I'm right) – Daniel Dec 19 '15 at 18:12
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"much/little" + singular, "many/few" + plural. I don't see any cause for debate. I have never heard something like "much for continuous, many + discrete". Where did you find this queer rule?

  • Continuous = noncount, discrete = count, if that helps. Different words, same concept. Comes from a math background. This doesn't answer my question though. – Kit Z. Fox Dec 20 '15 at 0:53
  • much/little: non-countable (is infinite and cannot be enumerated); many/few: countable (finite or infinite, but can be enumerated) – Quetzalcoatl May 25 '18 at 0:18

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