A lot of, lots of: difference and how to use

A lot of, lots of: rules

A lot of and lots of = 'a large number or amount'.

We use a lot of or lots of with both countable and uncountable nouns.

  • There was a lot of rain last week.
    [rain = uncountable]
  • There were a lot of people at the party.
    [people = countable/plural]
  • There's lots of food in the cupboard.
    [food = uncountable]

A lot of vs. much, many

A lot of, much and many have a similar meaning, but we often use them differently.

We use a lot of mostly in positive sentences.

In negatives and questions we prefer much and many:

  • He watches a lot of films. [positive]
    He doesn’t watch many films. [negative]
    Do you watch many films? [question]
  • He drinks a lot of coffee. [positive]
    He doesn’t drink much coffee. [negative]
    Do you drink much coffee? [question]

We sometimes use a lot of and lots of in negative sentences instead of much and many. And we use them in a question when we think the answer will be "yes":

  • I don't like a lot of salt in my food.
    or
    I don't like much salt in my food.
  • Do you get a lot of snow here?
    or
    Do you get much snow here?
  • Were there a lot of people at the football match?
    or
    Were there many people at the football match?

Single or plural verb?

If the noun is countable, we use a plural verb (are, have, etc):

  • There are a lot of cars in the world.
  • Lots of new houses were built last year.

If the noun is uncountable, we use a singular verb (is, has, etc):

  • There is a lot of noise.
  • There was a lot of food.

Where to use

A lot of and lots of are common in spoken English and sound quite informal.

Lots of is slightly more informal than a lot of.

In more formal spoken and written English, we often use many, much, plenty, a large number of and a large amount of.

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