Can you count it?

Maybe I should simply mute the sound. Watching sports on television can put my teeth on edge as I listen to some announcers abuse the language. Lately, I have noticed an error that also is common in the rest of us, the general population ā€” whether to use amount or number when referring to quantity.

The solution is easy. If you can count it, use number. A large number of students showed up wearing masks. (Not amount of students.) The number of fans decreased when the team started losing games. The number of votes were enough for her to win. The students, fans, and votes can be counted.

All right, then. When is it correct to use amount? Use amount when you’re referring to a singular noun that can’t be counted. Examples: A small amount of risk is involved. I have cut back the amount of fat in my diet.

There are exceptions, of course, and they are money and time. One can refer to an amount of money or to a number of dollar bills, or to an amount of time or a number of hours: The amount of money in my checking account has increased, and The number of dollar bills in the kitchen drawer has decreased. We have a limited amount of time to get to the airport.

Keep it simple. If you can count it, use number.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s