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English vocabulary: Amount v. number

Amount v. Number

by | 17 Aug 2016 | English Language


Amount and number are two words you can use to talk about quantities in English.

For people learning the language, it is not always easy to know which word to choose. Besides, it is easy to think both words are interchangeable and that you can equally use any of the two. And yet, it is not true and this leads to mistakes.

The good news is that the rule to know when to use amount or number is easy!

Use amount with uncountable nouns, i.e. to talk about things that you cannot count or say there are one, two, three or any specific number of.

For example, you can say:

  • an amount of money: I want to earn a good amount of money in my next job.
  • an amount of paper: The amount of paper that is used to make photocopies in our school is increasing every year.
  • an amount of work: She didn’t think she would have to do this amount of work.
  • an amount of courage: He needed to gather an incredible amount of courage to face the jury at his trial.
  • an amount of noise: We cannot tolerate such an amount of noise.


Use the word number with countable nouns, i.e. for things you can actually count, for example:

  • a number of students: We never have the same number of students applying for this course.
  • a number of chairs: What is the number of chairs that they need for the reception?
  • a number of accidents: The last survey shows the number of road accidents has not decreased yet in the last fours years.
  • a number of passengers: The new airline company expected a greater number of passenger on that flight.
  • a number of books: I can’t believe the number of books we managed to stack on that shelf.


Careful! In more formal situations, you can say quantity or quantities instead of both amount and number:

  • There were huge quantities of clothes left in an old wardrobe.
  • The quantity of water available will not be sufficient.
  • There was such a large quantity of films on offer, he didn’t know which one to choose.


There you are! You can try and find more examples to give you some practice but now you know when to use amount and when to use number. Congratulations! 🙂


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