The Grammarphobia Blog

Noodling around

Q: My mother and I have a running bet ($50 is at stake). Which is correct: “much” noodles or “many” noodles? I say “many” and she says “much.” I hope you can settle this.

A: An interesting question! And a lot depends on whether “noodles” is singular or plural.

If you think of it as a pasta dish, the word is singular. So you can say, “Noodles is my favorite dish,” though I’d prefer “My favorite dish is noodles.”

If you think of “noodles” as ribbon-shaped pieces of pasta, the word is plural. So you can say, “The noodles are going to be ready in six minutes.”

Now on to the specifics of your question. The adjective “much” refers to a lot of something (singular) while the adjective “many” refers to a lot of things (plural).

If you think of “noodles” as a bunch of those ribbon-shaped things, you can say, “My diet won’t let me eat many noodles.” On the other hand, if you think of “noodles” as a pasta dish, you can say, “I left over much of the noodles.”

If you use “much” with a plural word (like “noodles”) that’s acting in a singular way, you have to put “of the” between them. But you don’t need “of the” if you use “much” with a singular collective noun that acts in a plural way: “I left over much pasta.”

So, you win, but your mom comes in a close second. Maybe you should split the $50 and take each other out to dinner!

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