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Amount vs. Number

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Some nouns can be counted individually. A person could count the crayons in a box, the eggs in a carton, or the people on a train. These are called count nouns. Other nouns can’t be counted individually. A person could not count air, dirt, or happiness. These are called mass nouns.

English has specific words to use in reference to the quantity of mass and count nouns. Amount and number are two such words. Continue reading to discover the difference between them, and to find out whether you should use number or amount.

Origin:

Amount originated from Middle English (as a verb): from Old French amunter, from amont ‘upward’, literally ‘uphill’, from Latin ad montem . The noun use dates from the early 18th century. Number originated from Middle English: from Old French nombre (noun), nombrer (verb), from Latin numerus.

Amount as noun:

Amount when used as a noun describes a quantity of something, especially the total of a thing or things in number, size, value, or extent.

Sport gives an enormous amount of pleasure to many people.

Amount as verb:

When used as a verb it is used to come to be (the total) when added together.

Losses amounted to over 10 million pounds.

Number as noun:

An arithmetical value, expressed by a word, symbol, or figure, representing a particular quantity and used in counting and making calculations.

Think of a number from one to ten and multiply it by three.

Number as verb:

Number is used as a verb to amount to (a specified figure or quantity); comprise.

The demonstrators numbered more than 5,000.

Number also means to include or classify as a member of a group.

The orchestra numbers Brahms among its past conductors.

Examples:

Scientists have long noted that just about any event that shifts a large amount of mass from one part of the planet to another will have a tiny—and sometimes measurable—effect on the Earth’s rotation. [Wall Street Journal]

Worldwide, the number of shark attacks has grown each decade, hitting 646 in the 2000s. [Christian Science Monitor]

The number of students and graduates complaining about the handling of their loans has soared in recent years . . . [Independent]

Chretien stayed alive by eating nothing but a small amount of trail mix and melted snow. [CTV]

Number or amount:

Amount and number both refer to quantity, but each word has its own specific use. Number is used with nouns that can be individually counted, like stars Amount is used for nouns that cannot be individually counted, like starlight. If you aren’t sure whether to use amount or number, remember that “a” “mount” is used with “a” “mass” noun. Amount and a mass noun both begin with the letters “am.” This should help you keep these words straight.

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"Amount vs. Number." Grammar.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2017. Web. 25 Nov. 2017. <http://www.grammar.com/amount_vs._number>.

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