a bunch of

  • zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Yes. I trust you understand the difference!
    This is how it works, right?

    There was a bunch of bananas on the table.
    There were a bunch of bananas on the table.
    1674652696854.png
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Not necessarily. Are you considering the bunch singly or severally? In formal writing, we might try to match a singular collective noun with a singular verb, but we don’t use the word “bunch” in this sense in formal writing.
    I’m not sure that’s the right explanation.

    We’re talking about two distinct meanings of “bunch”:

    a bunch of bananas = a cluster of bananas
    a bunch of teenagers = a few teenagers / a lot of teenagers

    One is always singular; one is always plural.

    “bunch” in the first sense only works with a few nouns: bananas, grapes, parsley, cilantro,…
     
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    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I think the singular bunch has to be tied/bound together in some way. A bunch of keys is clearly a number of keys on a ring, and is singular. A bunch of teenagers are separate individuals and are plural. I expect there are some nouns that could be either (although I can't think of any offhand), and the choice between singular and plural depends on whether the speaker thinks of them as being one thing or several things.

    The singular "bunch" is common in BrE. I think BrE speakers are less likely to use the plural "bunch" than AmE speakers, but it isn't at all rare.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    You can have a bunch of time to get something done.

    Also:

    "We have a whole bunch of time before we have to leave."
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I would also add that in American English, "bunch" meaning "cluster" or "bound unit" is not that common when it's ambiguous:

    I bought three bunches of parsley.
    Perfectly fine.

    The parsley costs a dollar a bunch.
    Perfectly fine.

    I bought a bunch of parsley.
    Less likely to be used when the meaning is "cluster," because the sentence is ambiguous.

    I bought one bunch of parsley.
    Perfectly fine.
     
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    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I bought a bunch of parsley.
    Less likely to be used when the meaning is "cluster," because the sentence is ambiguous.

    I bought one bunch of parsley.
    Perfectly fine.
    Interesting. Would BrE use the former?
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thank you all for being very helpful; I do appreciate your input. It helps me so much and I love the nuances between AmE and BrE :)
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    I would also add that in American English, "bunch" meaning "cluster" or "bound unit" is not that common when it's ambiguous:

    a) I bought three bunches of parsley.
    Perfectly fine.

    b) The parsley costs a dollar a bunch.
    Perfectly fine.

    c) I bought a bunch of parsley.
    Less likely to be used when the meaning is "cluster," because the sentence is ambiguous.

    d) I bought one bunch of parsley.
    Perfectly fine.
    I agree with @elroy (I added letters to the example sentences to shorten what I'm about to write) about a) and b) but not about c) and d). Context makes a big difference.

    When I go to the grocery store and the person with the shopping list says "Go get a bunch of parsley and three onions" I bring back a little "bouquet" of parsley as in a) and b) and three onions. I do not bring back an armful of parsley "bouquets." If they wanted twenty bunches, they'd say so (and I'd be very surprised). But I might say "How much parsley?" to which the other person would answer laconically "one."

    If I wanted to make it clear that by c) I mean several or many bunches, I'd say "I bought a lot of parsley."

    d) sounds a little too 'picky' to me -- no need to specify the number. Maybe that's because I hardly ever buy more than one bunch of parsley at a time.

    To summarize, to me 'a bunch of parsley' in ordinary life means one little wrapped "unit" of parsley. If I lived in a household where large amounts of parsley were used (for tabbouleh, say) I might use 'bunch' differently.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I don't think we really disagree. Context makes a difference. I only said "less likely to be used." Parsley may not have been the best example. In a scenario where I'm asking someone to grab something for me at the grocery store, I probably wouldn't use a vague "a bunch of" as a general quantifier anyway. I'd be more specific than that, even if not perfectly exact: "Go get like three pounds of parsley," "Go get like twenty or so big potatoes," or even "Go get about this much rice" while cupping my hands to indicate an approximate quantity. With "a bunch of," there'd be too much risk of them getting too much or too little.

    There's a bunch of parsley in the fridge.
    This is an example where I would probably avoid saying it this way if it was important for me to convey where there's one bunch or four. And yes, if you often make tabbouleh four bunches is perfectly plausible. :p
     

    Wordy McWordface

    Senior Member
    SSBE (Standard Southern British English)
    Here's another nuance from a BrE perspective, based on Elroy's distinction in #54.

    There seem to be three meanings of a bunch of. Or, at least, there's a grey area where the two obviously different meanings meet. This is how I see it:

    1. A bound cluster e.g. a bunch of parsley, as in #61
    AmE :tick: BrE :tick:

    2. An unbound "cluster", or visible group e.g. a bunch of teenagers (='a few' as in #54, gathered together in one area)
    AmE :tick: BrE :confused::tick:

    3. 'A lot' e.g. a bunch of cheese, a bunch of problems
    AmE :tick: BrE:cross:

    I think that the situation is clear-cut for meanings 1 and 3: we all talk about bound bunches of flowers, bananas and so on, but only AmE uses bunch of as an all-purpose alternative to 'a lot of'.

    As for 2, a sentence such as There's a bunch of teenagers hanging around by the park gates most evenings sounds perfectly normal to me in BrE. This is because it's not a statement about the large number of teenagers present (there might only be four or five of them) but a description of their physical distribution. It describes the fact that they are gathered in cluster, gaggle or 'knot'. This seems to be an extension of meaning 1 rather than an example of meaning 3.
     
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    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    As for 2, a sentence such as There's a bunch of teenagers hanging around by the park gates most evenings sounds perfectly normal to me in BrE. This is because it's not a statement about the large number of teenagers present (there might only be four or five of them) but a description of their physical distribution. It describes the fact that they are gathered in cluster, gaggle or 'knot'.
    For me, in American English:

    In your example, "a bunch of" doesn't convey to me that they are "gathered in a cluster." If the area referred to ("around by the park gates") is not that big, then I would probably envision them "gathered in a cluster" because they would pretty much have to be, but that information would come from "around by the park gates" and not "a bunch of." If we're talking about a large, extensive area (a large town square, for example), the teenagers could be pretty spread apart and "a bunch of" would still be possible in American English.

    "a bunch of" is also ambiguous here with regard to whether it's a large number of teenagers. As I told @zaffy earlier:
    I think it would depend on context, tone of voice, etc.

    Basically, I would say that except in the sense of 1, "bunch" has lost the "cluster" aspect in American English.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    I don't think we really disagree. Context makes a difference. I only said "less likely to be used." Parsley may not have been the best example. In a scenario where I'm asking someone to grab something for me at the grocery store, I probably wouldn't use a vague "a bunch of" as a general quantifier anyway. I'd be more specific than that, even if not perfectly exact: "Go get like three pounds of parsley," "Go get like twenty or so big potatoes," or even "Go get about this much rice" while cupping my hands to indicate an approximate quantity. With "a bunch of," there'd be too much risk of them getting too much or too little.

    There's a bunch of parsley in the fridge.
    This is an example where I would probably avoid saying it this way if it was important for me to convey where there's one bunch or four. And yes, if you often make tabbouleh four bunches is perfectly plausible. :p
    I didn't mean that we disagreed violently 😀 but I think we do actually disagree -- I don't think 'a bunch of parsley' is particularly ambiguous. To me it is the little cluster unless the context dictates otherwise. And yes, I picked tabbouleh for a reason!

    Sure, I would not say "a bunch of potatoes" or "a bunch of rice." In reality, parsley is sold by the bunch, so I'd say "get a bunch of parsley" or "get four bunches of parsley" to mean four clusters.

    But recipes call for weights of potato or amounts of potatoes, and that's how they're sold, and in the US rice is measured by volume in recipes (or by weight, occasionally) and rice is sold by weight in boxes or bags. So I would ask for the foodstuff according to how it's sold or what the recipe calls for.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    Basically, I would say that except in the sense of 1, "bunch" has lost the "cluster" aspect in American English.
    What about someone trying to organize a parade of 7-year-olds: "Kids, don't bunch up like that. Spread out and walk in a line!"
    and that organizer to another adult:
    "Jeez, they just walk in a bunch. Have they no concept of what a parade is? Kids these days...."
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    To me it is the little cluster unless the context dictates otherwise.
    Okay, then I guess we do disagree. If someone told me they had a bunch of parsley in the fridge, I wouldn’t assume one bunch.

    Another example:

    I walked into the kitchen and it was a mess! The countertop was stained, the sink was overflowing with dishes, and on the floor there were some potatoes, an onion, and a bunch of parsley!

    In that context, it could be one bunch, or something else — like loose leaves and/or stems (whole and/or chopped) scattered around in non-bunch form.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    What about someone trying to organize a parade of 7-year-olds: "Kids, don't bunch up like that. Spread out and walk in a line!"
    and that organizer to another adult:
    "Jeez, they just walk in a bunch. Have they no concept of what a parade is? Kids these days...."
    Good point. Sorry, I should’ve said “a bunch of.”
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Which sense(s) are you talking about here, UJ?
    A bunch of keys/grapes/flowers/parsley is lying on the table. This use is common in BrE.
    Of course, you can have more than one bunch of keys/grapes/flowers or parsley, and use "bunches" and a plural verb.

    A bunch of kids are playing in the park. This use is less common.

    I don't think BrE uses "bunch" meaning "a lot of" with an uncountable noun, when the meaning isn't a tied-together bundle or something else that is connected together. A bunch of cheese sounds very odd (as opposed to "a bunch of cheeses", which merely sounds a little unusual). A bunch of parsley is this
    0786da47-31fd-4571-956d-00e3afd4ddf5


    If someone said they saw a bunch of parsley growing in a field, I might imagine this:
    images


    I would not imagine this:
    images
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    By the way, "a bunch of cheese" sounds very casual to me.
    A: wha' we got for lunch?
    B<opens fridge door>: Buncha cheese, bread, tomatoes, tabbouleh from last night..."
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Or it could refer to an ungodly quantity of cheese.

    I ate a (whole) bunch of cheese earlier, and I’m feeling pretty bloated. I couldn’t help it: I was at the Dane County Farmers’ Market in Madison and they were giving out free samples! Of course I had to sample everything!

    (I thought of this example because I happen to be in Madison as we speak. I don’t think the Farmers’ Market takes place in the winter, though. 😔)
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    I would definitely use "whole bunch of" there, not just "bunch." Or, if I wanted to be coarse, "a sh*tload of."
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    For me, both would work in this context, where it's clear it was too much.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    You can also stress "bunch" to indicate "a lot": "a bunch of cheese"
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Oh, I just realized that "a bunch of cheese" must sound to British English speakers how "Manchester United are going to win" sounds to American English speakers! "downright weird" is spot on.
     
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    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    This shop sells a whole bunch of cheeses:
    images


    Actually, we might use "a whole bunch of cheeses" (definitely countable) to mean lots of different types of cheese, not necessarily whole cheeses. However, as I mentioned earlier, this use of "bunch" to mean "lot of" isn't particularly common in Britain.
     

    anthox

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I was tagged here earlier, but as I see there have been a whole bunch of comments* added to the discussion since then, I'll bow out. :D


    * Yes, the plural "have been" feels natural with "a bunch of comments" to me. Is this wrong? I feel like maybe it is, grammatically, but it feels logical so I've left it.
     
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