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Topic: Amount vs Number, and more
Replies: 1   Last Post: Mar 23, 2001 12:46 PM

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Terry Trotter

Posts: 26
Registered: 12/3/04
Amount vs Number, and more
Posted: Mar 22, 2001 5:34 PM
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In several recent AlgPoW problems there have been occasions where
students have used the word "amount" incorrectly. As in a problem
about a number of soldiers marching... Of course, they said
"...amount of soldiers...".

It's a matter of countable vs uncountable nouns. So I decided it was
time to "go public" and explain the matter directly. Therefore I
wrote about this for my solvers in my Tip of the Week feature. Here
is what I said:

Two words that mean different things in math are: number and amount.
They are often used incorrectly in common speech and no one seems to
mind. But we should be more careful when we write them in PoW

It's really quite simple to know. If you can "count" the items
referred to, use "number." A recent problem involved the "number of
soldiers" that were marching. To say the "amount of soldiers" sounds a
bit strange to the ear.

The word "amount," therefore, is used when you can't count, as in the
"amount of milk in a glass." Of course, you could count the "number of
glasses of milk" or the "number of fluid ounces in the glass," but
that's different. You're counting glasses, not the milk itself.

I have now just created a sequel to that, for "less" and "fewer". It

Two “Tips” ago, I explained the words "amount" and "number" This time
we’ll look at two words often used with them when we compare things:
less and fewer.

When we are comparing countable things, using number, we should say
"fewer". Example: "There are fewer cookies on my plate than on yours."
[Do NOT say: "…less cookies…".]

On the other hand, use "less" when "amount" is involved. Example:
"There is less milk in my glass after I drank some of it."

However, you might use "fewer" with milk if you're counting glasses of
milk. Look: "There are fewer glasses of milk on this table than on
that one." That's because we're counting the number of glasses, not
the amount of the milk.

(And you know... The above advice for those four words was probably
taught to me by my Language Arts teachers!)


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