more / many, much / few, little / fewer, less

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Senior Member

In English:

Many: countable
Much: uncountable

More: comparative of both "many" and "much"

Few: countable
Little: uncountable

Fewer: comparative of "few"
Less: comparative of "little"

I was wondering if your languages had this countable/uncountable distinction. We don't, neither in Catalan nor in Spanish, I guess that we don't need it because determinatives agree in number with the noun:

molt (much), molts (many)
més (more)
poc (little), pocs (few)
menys (fewer & less)

mucho (much), muchos (many)
más (more)
poco (little), pocos (few)
menos (fewer & less)

I have also found a possible ambiguity that could result with "more" or from confusing the usage of "less" and "fewer". Romance languages would resolve it by means of different word order. How would you translate?:

"Less regular verbs" [verbs are less regular]: verbs menys regulars, verbos menos regulares
"Fewer regular verbs" [regular verbs are less numerous]: menys verbs regulars, menos verbos regulares

  • Greek does not make this countable/uncountable distinction, it distinguishes between adjective (which declines for number and gender), and adverb (which is indeclinable):

    (1) «Πολύς, -λλή, -λύ» [poˈlis] (masc.), [poˈli] (fem.), [poˈli] (neut.) --> (of number) many, (of size, degree, intensity) much < Classical adj. «πολύς, -λλή, -λύ» pŏlús (masc.), pŏllḗ (fem.), pŏlú (neut.) --> many, much, often (PIE *p(e)lh₁-u- many cf Skt. पुरु (puru), many, Lat. plūs, Proto-Germanic *feluz > Ger. viel, Eng. feel (obsolete), Dt. veel) e.g. «πολύς θυμός» [poˈlis θiˈmos] (both masc. nom. sing.) --> much anger, «πολλές επιθυμίες» [poˈles epiθiˈ] (both fem. nom. pl.) --> many desires, «πολλά ταξίδια» [poˈla taˈk͡siðʝa] (both neut. nom. pl.) --> many travels.

    The comparative is «περισσότερος, -ρη, -ρο» [peɾiˈsoteɾos] (masc.), [peɾiˈsoteɾi] (fem.), [peɾiˈsoteɾo] (neut.) borrowed from the adj. «περισσός» [peɾiˈsos] < Classical adj. «περισσός» pĕrissós (Attic «περιττός» pĕrittós) --> excessive, extraordinary, superfluous (PIE *per- to cross, pass cf Skt. परि (pari), about, Av. pairi, around, among, Lat. per, Proto-Germanic *ferrai > Eng. far, Dt. ver).

    (2) «Λίγος, -γη, -γο» [ˈliɣos] (masc.), [ˈliʝi] (fem.), [ˈliɣo] (neut.) --> little, small, (of number) few, aphetic of Classical adj. «ὀλίγος, -γη, -γον» ŏlígŏs (masc.), ŏlígē (fem.), ŏlígŏn (neut.) with unclear etymology, e.g. «λίγος χρόνος» [ˈliɣos ˈxronos] (both masc. nom. sing.) --> little time, «λίγες στιγμές» [ˈliʝes stiɣˈmes] (both fem. nom. pl.) --> few moments, «λίγα λόγια» [ˈliɣa ˈloʝa] (neut. nom. pl.) --> few words.

    The comparative is «λιγότερος, -ρη, -ρο» [liˈɣoteɾos] (masc.), [liˈɣoteɾi] (fem.), [liˈɣoteɾo] (neut.).
    The PIE suffix *-(t)er-o- forms the comparative.

    (Α) «Πολύ» [poˈli] --> much < Classical adverbialized neut. sing. «πολύ» pŏlú & neut. pl. «πολλά» pŏllắ (the latter is considered obsolete in Standard MoGr, but it's alive an kicking in the Cypriot, Cretan, and other smaller MoGr regiolects) e.g. «πολύ καλά» [poˈli kaˈla] (both adv.), in Cyprus «πολλά καλά» [poˈlːa kaˈla] (both adv.) --> very well (PIE *p(e)lh₁-u- many).

    (Β) «Λίγο» [ˈliɣo] aphetic of Classical adverbialized neut. sing. «ὀλίγον» ŏlígŏn e.g. «πολύ λίγο» (both adv.) --> very little, too little, hardly anything.


    Senior Member
    Sardu / Italianu
    In Sardinian :

    1. Meda (much), Medas (many)
    2. Piùs / Prùs (more)
    3. Pagu (little, few - singular), Pagos, Pagas (plural)
    4. Piùs pagu (fewer & less - singular) Piùs pagos / pagas (plural)
    5. In mancu (less)
    1. Tempus meda = much time - Mannu meda = very big - Dae medas annos = many years ago
    2. Piùs / Prùs mannu = bigger, biggest
    3. Happo pagu dinari = I've little money - Happo pagos minudos = I've few coins
    4. Happo piùs pagu dinari de a tie = I've less money than you
    5. Happo pagadu in sa buttega e m'han torradu dinari in mancu = I payed at the shop and they returned me less money


    Senior Member
    Sardu / Italianu
    Manco also means "less" in Majorcan Catalan, and I'd say final -o reveals foreign influence, the etymological dictionary suggests Italian...
    It could be related with the verb "Mancare" = to lack, to miss, from this verb derive also adjectives like :

    Manca = Left
    Manu Manca = Left Hand
    Mànchinu = left handed
    Mancante = idiot

    Apparently in ancient times to be left handed it was considered a lack, a flaw


    Senior Member
    Greek does not make this countable/uncountable distinction
    Neither does Russian. However, Russian does distinguish between quantity and intensity.

    "много" = "many", "much", "a lot of". Used in phrases like "a lot of water", "many apples".
    "больше" = "more", "bigger". Used in comparative phrases like "more water than", "more apples than".
    "более" = "to a greater degree". Used in comparative phrases like "more agile", "more beautiful".

    "мало" = "few", "little". Used in phrases like "a little water", "few apples".
    "меньше" = "fewer", "less", "smaller". Used in comparative phrases like "less water than", "fewer apples than".
    "менее" = "to a smaller degree". Used in comparative phrases like "This option is less preferred", "less heavy".

    "сколько?" - question word for the amount/quantity of both countable and uncountable things. Used, for example, in "How many years?", "How much does it weight?"
    "насколько?" - question words for intensity. For example, "How strong is the wind today?"

    I have also found a possible ambiguity
    Declension system helps a lot here. We use Genitive case to convey "less of something".
    "Less regular verbs" = "менее правильные глаголы", literally: "less-intensively regular verbs".
    "Fewer regular verbs" = "меньше правильных глаголов", literally "Less of-regular of-verbs"


    Senior Member
    Arabic does not distinguish between countable and uncountable words usually:
    كثير kathiir: much\many
    أكثر 'akthar: more
    قليل qaliil: little\few
    أقل 'aqall: less\fewer

    these are usual, but there are other words that could be used but they distinguish, even though this distinction is not important:
    عديد 'adiid: many
    بعض ba'D: some\little (even though this could sometimes be translated as few)


    Senior Member
    Czech (Prague)
    No countable/uncountable distinction in Czech.

    mnoho = many/much
    více = more

    málo = few/little
    méně = fewer/less

    less regular verbs: méně pravidelná slovesa (nom. plur.)
    fewer regular verbs: méně pravidelných sloves (gen. plur., lit. fewer of regular verbs)


    Senior Member

    Interesting. It really strikes me you use such long and learned words for "more" and "less/fewer".

    You're also right about adverbs, but is taking the neuter form of adjectives for adverbs a regular thing in Greek? Catalan, Spanish and I'm sure that all Romance languages just drop the noun/adjective and may use an adverbial pronoun:

    We have a lot of water - Tenim molta aigua - Tenemos mucha agua
    We have a lot - En tenim molta - Tenemos mucha


    I hadn't thought about that, it's another axis to add, and intensity could also be applied to the (non-comparative?) words.

    Countable (e.g. trees) / Uncountable (e.g. time) / Adjectives? (e.g. beautiful)

    1- "many" / "much" / "very"

    + comparative:
    2- "more" / "more" / "more" or "-er"

    3- "few" / "little" / "little"? I'm not sure

    - comparative:
    4- "fewer" / "less" / "less"

    5- "how many" / "how much" / "how" (connection with this thread)

    Catalan doesn't make any difference between quantity and intensity, except in 5-:

    1- molts / molt / molt
    2- més / més / més
    3- pocs / poc / poc
    4- menys / menys / menys
    5- quants / quant / com

    Spanish does differentiate between "many/much" and "very":

    1- muchos / mucho / muy
    2- más / más / más
    3- pocos / poco / poco
    4- menos / menos / menos
    5- cuántos / cuánto / como de, cuán or qué tan (Lat Am)?

    I think that 5- adjectival structure is rare in Catalan and Spanish and people will rephrase it differently, e.g. "how tall are you?" -> "how much do you measure?"


    1- много / много / очень, I guess
    2- больше / больше / более
    3- мало / мало / ?
    4- меньше / меньше / менее
    5- сколько / сколько / насколько


    Same root for "more" and "many/much", and on the other hand, for "fewer/less" and "few/little", isn't it? Is this a regular formation, just as one would form "fewer" from "few"?
    @apmoy70 taking the neuter form of adjectives for adverbs a regular thing in Greek?
    Yes, in fact it's much more common to adverbialise the neut. pl. form, in order to construct an adverb of manner (this process began in Koine Gr and back then, many grammarians opposed the perceived "banality" of that linguistic practice) e.g.:

    -Adj. «κᾱλός» kālós > adv. «κᾱλά» kālắ (instead of the Classical «καλῶς» kālôs) > MoGr «καλά» [kaˈla] --> well

    -Adj. «ἀργός» ārgós > Koine «ἀργά» ārgắ (instead of the Classical «ἀργῶς» ārgôs) > MoGr «αργά» [arˈɣa] --> slowly, lately, idly.

    I forgot to add to my previous post, that while adverbs are indeed indeclinable, they have comparative and superlative forms, thus:
    -Adv. «λίγο» [ˈliɣo] > comp. «λιγότερο» [liˈɣoteɾo] > superl. «πολύ λιγότερο» [poˈli liˈɣoteɾo] (mostly periphrastic superlative, but the learned «ολίγιστο» [oˈliʝisto] may be used, considered highbrowed or geeky nowadays).
    -Adv. «καλά» [kaˈla] > comp. «καλύτερα» [kaˈliteɾa] > superl. «κάλλιστα» [ˈkalista].
    -Adv. «κακά» [kaˈka] --> badly, awfully > comp. «χειρότερα» [çiˈɾoteɾa] (both the adj. «κακός» and the adv. «κακά» have irregular comparative) > superl. «χείριστα» [ˈçiɾista].

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    In Dutch:
    Veel = many, much
    Weinig = few, little
    Meer = more
    Meer dan (+ number) = over (+ number)
    Meerdere = several
    Minder = fewer, less

    In French:
    Beaucoup = many, much
    Peu = few, little
    Plus = more
    Plus de (+ number) = over (+ number)
    Plusiers = several
    Moins = fewer, less

    In Swedish:
    Mycket = much (uncountable)
    Många = many (countable)
    Lite = little (uncountable)
    Få = few (countable)
    Mer = more (uncountable, formal)
    Mera = more (uncountable, informal)
    Fler, flera = more (countable)
    Flera, många = several
    Över (+ number) = over (+ number)
    Mindre = less (uncountable)
    Färre = fewer (countable)


    Senior Member
    In Hungarian:
    There is no distiction between countable and uncoutable nouns
    Each words require the nouns in singular,j ust like the numbers.

    sok = many or much
    több = more (irregular)
    legtöbb = most (regular).

    kevés = few,
    kevesebb = less (almost regular)
    legkevesebb =least (regular)

    hány? = how many?
    néhány = some, a few.
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