Should I Use Amount or Number?


Posted by Jake Magnum | January 18, 2018 | This or That?

Whether to use amount or number depends on whether you are working with a so-called uncountable object. While certain nouns, such as courage and faith are truly uncountable and clearly fit into this category, uncountable objects can be things such as sugar, salt, and sand — things that are so small that one could not reasonably be expected to count them. They can also be things such as — and this is where the term uncountable gets quite blurry — money and time that can be counted, but not directly. That is, you do not count your money and then announce, “I have 200 money.” You can count in dollars and cents, but not in money.

When dealing with one of these uncountable things, you should use the word amount. “Could I have just a small amount of salt, please?” is correct, whereas “He has a large number of money in his bank account,” is incorrect.

People don’t tend to make the mistakes just described. More commonly, people make the mistake of using amount when dealing with objects that can be counted — that is, when they should have used number. Below are two examples of phrases that probably look fine to a lot of people, but are not:

A decent amount of people turned out for the event.

He has a large amount of stamps in his collection.

Some nouns are countable in some contexts but not in others. An example is chicken. Both of the following are grammatically correct:

You ate a large amount of chicken.

There was a large number of chickens on the farm.