a few, several, and many before hundred / hundreds of...

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raymondaliasapollyon

Senior Member
Chinese
Hello,

Please examine the following phrases:

  1. a few hundred books
  2. a few hundreds of books
  3. several hundred books
  4. several hundreds of books
  5. many hundred books
  6. many hundreds of books
I think #1, #3, and #6 are correct. What about the others? Also, it seems to me (although I'm by no means certain) that "many" patterns differently from "a few" and "several." If that's the case, do you have an explanation?
 
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  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    #3 and #6 are okay. I wouldn't use the others. (I think #3 is the same as, and to be preferred over, #1.)
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    As I see it:
    1. a few hundred books -> few hundred is a noun phrase and hundred is used uncountably as a single unit of quantity. -> Acceptable
    2. a few hundreds of books -> old-fashioned
    3. several hundred books -> as 1. above -> Acceptable
    4. several hundreds of books -> as 2. above
    5. many hundred books -> as 1. above -> Acceptable
    6. many hundreds of books -> hundred is used countably as a single unit of quantity. -> Acceptable
    Compare:
    1. a few dozen books -> Acceptable -> dozen is used uncountably as a single unit of quantity
    2. a few dozens of books -> old-fashioned
    3. several dozen books -> as 1. above -> Acceptable
    4. several dozens of books -> as 2. above
    5. many dozen books -> as 1. Above but this is awkward, I don’t know why.
    6. many dozens of books -> dozen is used countably as a single unit of quantity. -> Acceptable
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    As I see it:
    5.many hundred books -> as 1. above -> Acceptable
    Compare:
    5. many dozen books -> as 1. Above but this is awkward, I don’t know why
    I wonder why you find "many hundred books" acceptable, but "many dozen books" awkward. Is it the difference between "hundred and dozen"?
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    Is it the difference between "hundred and dozen"?
    I think so. But let's wait for PaulQ to confirm this.

    Dozen is only 12. Many 12s doesn't make any sense because you can simply say 120, 1200, etc. "Many hundred" totally means something else, a very big number.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I think the difference is that "hundred" is both the name of a quantity and the name of a number, whereas "dozen" is only the name of a quantity. We can compare this to "many seventy books" :cross:: "seventy" is only the name of a number and not of a quantity. And "many scores of people attended the demonstration.":tick: in which "score" = a quantity of 20.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Dozens of, scores of, hundreds of – since they express numbers rather than quantities, these terms can all only be used with plural countable nouns.

    Other such expressions (lots of, loads of, oodles of, bucketfuls of, shiploads of…) also work with singular uncountable nouns, such as sugar, beef, water, energy.


    Slowly cross-posted and thinking along the same lines as PaulQ.
     
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