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Is the word "much" used in affirmative sentences?

Example:

I want to buy much milk.

I know that "much" is used in negative sentences and questions, but I am not sure if using it in affirmative sentences is grammatically correct.

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    I'm voting to migrate to English Language Learners. @Mag: - your version isn't idiomatic, but interestingly, Do you want to buy much milk? is syntactically normal. More commonly, I have much money is non-idiomatic, whereas Do you have much money? is perfectly natural. Jul 31, 2017 at 12:07
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    While technically correct, no native speaker would use that particular turn of phrase. It's awkward. "Too much milk" and "not much milk" are fine. "I need to buy a lot of milk" would be acceptable.
    – Ricky
    Jul 31, 2017 at 12:08
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    @Ricky I would actually use this, but only for the humourous non-standard aspect. That as well as 'much milk needs to be bought' (say for particularly vast quantities). I agree it is not common practice. Jul 31, 2017 at 12:15
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    @marcellothearcane: Well, yeah, but humor is a whole separate issue, and can't be taught.
    – Ricky
    Jul 31, 2017 at 12:22
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    Much obliged and much appreciated are standard shorthand for Thank you. Jul 31, 2017 at 12:37

2 Answers 2

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There is more in that question than meets the eye.

Much is correct in the affirmative (a large quantity or amount, see American Heritage). It so happens that it is a) slightly archaic b) not often used with concrete words (water, butter, etc.) or ordinary quantities (money). Hence that would sound a little passé in normal conversation:

I bought much milk.

Compared to:

I bought a lot of milk.

My best guess: much still belongs to an educated register and more likely to be used with set phrases:

I am much obliged.

You will avoid much grief.

He knows much.

Much ado about nothing.

Aside of much + comparative, which also belongs to spoken language:

It's much better.

By contrast a lot is informal and not particularly advisable in written style. One would write:

A large quantity of water

A large amount of butter

A lot did displace much but that leaves an awkward gap in formal language, requiring clunky periphrases. Hence I would argue that:

He bought much milk.

still does have its place in formal style, for brevity. But that would probably be a matter of opinion.

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    Much and many are quite frequent in the negative, however. They're not quite NPIs, but not much and not many are more frequent than not a lot. The use of a lot has taken over much and many's territory because a lot (of) doesn't require distinguishing between mass and count nouns -- a lot of money and a lot of people both work the same way. It's the affirmative uses that produce questionable sentences, and that's because it's being superseded by a lot and by negative associations. Jul 22, 2023 at 16:12
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    I'm surprised you haven't included lotsa, @John, but I suppose it's mainly used around the London area. Aug 15, 2023 at 10:41
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It's absolutely normal. Oxford English Grammar Course advanced confirms it. Everything that is ok in the formal style, is also ok in the informal. The formal one is more correct and accurate.

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  • No, it sounds distinctly odd (some might say unacceptably so) in say 'Could I have much rice with my curry, please?' We'd use 'a lot of' / 'a good helping of'. It's far more normal in negative contexts ('They didn't give us much rice with the curry, did they?') Aug 15, 2023 at 10:46

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