Clunky title, sorry.

An example: "Lots of pizza" sounds right, as does "many pizzas." "Lots of pizzas" does not sound right (in my dialect; I think it's fine in others), nor does "many pizza." "Lots of tortillas sounds right," as does "many tortillas." "Lot of tortilla" does not sound right, nor does "many tortilla."

Why do some words stick with the singular plural when following "lots of," and why is it strictly followed (to my knowledge) that all words are pluralized following "many"?

  • Pizza can be used both as a count and noncount noun; there is absolutely nothing wrong with lots of pizzas: the volunteers stuffed lots of envelopes and ate lots of pizzas. Tortilla is not commonly noncount. – choster Nov 8 '18 at 22:34

Many means more than one or two and hence always precedes plural countable nouns:

I have many friends. - She has read many books.

So many help, many money, many pizza and many tortilla are all ungrammatical.

On the other hand, lots of can mean both a large amount of and a large number of. In the first case it is followed by a singular noun, and in the second case by a plural noun:

  • I need lots of help. - She has lots of money.

  • I have lots of friends. - She reads lots of books.

(Note, however, that lots of, particularly when followed by a singular noun, is considered very informal.)

The complication is that many nouns, particularly food nouns such as pizza, may either be conceived of as referring to the entity/food itself or to separate instances of that entity/food. In the first case the singular noun is used, and in the second case the plural noun.

So, I eat lots of pizza has an emphasis on the total amount of pizza eaten, whereas I eat lots of pizzas places greater emphasis on the number of individual pizzas.

As for tortillas, I can only speculate that lots of tortilla does not sound right because a tortilla is conceived solely as an individual item. So, I eat lots of tortilla sounds as odd as saying I eat lots of grape. Maybe someone has a better idea.

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