Is It Correct to Say “Very Many”?

Marcus Froland

English is a tricky beast. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on it, it throws you another curveball. The phrase “very many” might sound strange to some ears. It’s like those two words shouldn’t really go together, right? But then again, English has never been one for following rules to the letter.

The debate around “very many” isn’t new. Some argue it’s perfectly fine, while others can’t help but cringe every time they hear it. But here’s the thing — language evolves. What was once considered wrong can become accepted over time. So, where does that leave “very many”? Well, you might be surprised by what we’ve found.

Using “very many” in a sentence is indeed correct. This phrase helps to stress the large amount of something. For example, when you say “There are very many reasons I love reading,” you’re highlighting that the number of reasons is not just large, but notably so. It’s important to note, though, that this expression fits best in informal or conversational settings. In more formal writing or speeches, phrases like “a great number of” might be preferred for clarity and tone.

Understanding the Phrase “Very Many” in American English

In American English usage, the phrase “very many” serves as a common and acceptable expression, primarily employed as an intensifier to indicate a significant quantity. This language context is not unique to American English; the phrase’s recognition extends to other English dialects such as British English.

While the phrase can be omitted without affecting the intrinsic meaning of a sentence, its inclusion can either ?>emphasize abundance or, when used in negation, indicate a limited quantity relative to a larger expectation. Despite criticism from some language purists who find “very many” repetitive or an extravagant use of adjectives and adverbs, it remains part of the accepted spoken vernacular across various English-speaking regions.

“Very many is a phrase that most American English speakers use without hesitation, despite the controversy surrounding its use.”

The acceptance of the phrase in spoken language can be attributed to cultural consistency and communication patterns within different regions. Here’s how the usage of “very many” varies across several English-speaking locations:

  1. United States: Widespread acceptance and use in both written and spoken language, particularly as an intensifier.
  2. United Kingdom: Similar usage to American English, though it may be considered more formal in certain contexts.
  3. Canada: Generally accepted, although some native speakers argue for the use of alternative phrases, such as “a great many” or “numerous.”
  4. Australia: Commonly used in spoken English, but less frequently in written language due to stylistic preferences.
  5. New Zealand: Usage similar to that of neighboring Australia, with an understanding of the phrase’s meaning and general acceptance in spoken language.

Ultimately, the phrase “very many” is a mainstay in English-speaking cultures, including American English, and is unlikely to be phased out due to its widespread recognition and utility in conveying the desired level of abundance or scarcity.

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The Grammatical Rules Surrounding “Very Many”

Understanding the grammatical rules and nuances of the English language can be challenging, especially when it comes to quantifiers. In this section, we will explore the grammatical acceptability and usage rules of “very many” in various contexts.

When is “Very Many” Considered Acceptable?

The phrase “very many” is often used as an intensifier in both positive and negative contexts, such as “There are very many tennis courts in town” or “There aren’t very many tennis courts in our town.” This phrase is considered grammatically correct and implies a significant, but not excessive, quantity when used in the negative. Native English speakers generally recognize the appropriateness of using “very many,” although preferences may vary depending on context and tone.

“Very many” is considered grammatically correct and is often employed as intensification in both positive and negative contexts.

Comparisons with Other Quantifiers in English

When comparing “very many” with other quantifiers, a hierarchy of abundance or scarcity emerges. These quantifiers include “many,” “a few,” “not very many,” and “few.”

  1. Many: A large but unspecified quantity
  2. A few: A small quantity, more than two but not many
  3. Not very many: A modest number, less than many but more than few
  4. Few: A very small number, less than a few

While “very many” and “many” indicate greater abundance, phrases like “a few” or “not very many” denote lesser quantities. The addition of the word “very” can subtly alter the perception of abundance by emphasizing the magnitude. However, some language experts argue for simplified language and propose using terms like “not enough” to convey scarcity without the need for added intensification.

Ultimately, understanding the nuances and usage rules of “very many” and other quantifiers is essential for effective communication in the English language. While “very many” is considered grammatically acceptable, it’s essential to be mindful of context, tone, and personal preferences when using this phrase.

Common Usage of “Very Many” in Spoken vs. Written English

In spoken English, the phrase “very many” enjoys widespread acceptance as a popular colloquialism. Its usage appears regularly in conversations, highlighting the spoken English nuances encountered in day-to-day discourse. When it comes to making an impact on the listener, “very many” effectively communicates an abundance of objects or actions.

On the other hand, in the realm of written English, the use of “very many” is generally frowned upon. Some writing teachers and style guides classify it as trite, pointing to its redundancy in many contexts. They argue that the phrase detracts from the power of the nouns and adjectives in a sentence, diluting their impact.

It’s less a matter of right and wrong, and more about writing style preferences.

Consequently, you’ll often notice that writers choose to abandon “very” in favor of crisper, more concise prose. This choice allows nouns and adjectives to showcase their inherent strength without the interference of intensifiers, such as “very.” The result is a clearer and more persuasive written piece that resonates with the reader.

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Despite the differing preferences between spoken and written English, the acceptability of “very many” in daily conversation has remained steadfast. It continues to thrive as an essential part of the linguistic toolkit for millions of speakers worldwide. While it might not be every writer’s first choice, its prominence in spoken English ensures that it will endure for generations to come.

The Role of “Very” as an Intensifier

In the English language, intensifiers play an essential part in modifying quantity, and “very” is a commonly used intensifier. Its purpose is to augment or amplify the meaning of the adjective it accompanies, thus adding emphasis to the message being conveyed. Let’s explore how “very” affects the meaning of “many” when used as an intensifier.

Impact of “Very” on the Meaning of “Many”

When “very” is combined with the adjective “many”, it functions as an adverb of intensity. By functioning as an intensifier, it elevates the sense of quantity that “many” normally conveys. For example, compare the following two sentences:

  1. There are many books in the library.
  2. There are very many books in the library.

In sentence 1, “many” implies that the library has a significant number of books. However, sentence 2, with the addition of “very”, suggests that the library has an even larger number of books, and the phrase “very many” signifies a greater quantity than “many” alone.

“Very” can also act minimally, or not at all, in terms of meaning. Thus, whether “very many” is considered to add substantial meaning is subjective and may vary from one individual to another.

Ultimately, the effect of using “very” to intensify “many” hinges on the speaker’s intention and the desired emphasis they wish to convey. While some speakers might find “very many” helpful for emphasizing quantity, others might choose to forego the intensifier for a simpler approach.

Varied Opinions on “Very Many” Among English Speakers

Opinions about the phrase “very many” differ among English speakers. While some view it as perfectly acceptable or grammatically correct, others decry it as unnecessarily verbose or even repetitive. The phrase’s prevalence continues in colloquial speech across continents, and its criticized usage parallels that of contentious phrases like “very unique,” which can elicit strong reactions about the proper degree of uniqueness. Such disparities in viewpoints often reflect the blend of prescriptivism and descriptivism in language, showcasing the dynamic and diverse perspectives inherent to English speakers.

Prescriptivism refers to the belief that strict rules and guidelines should govern language use, whereas descriptivism acknowledges that language is constantly evolving, and its rules should adapt accordingly. Consequently, the English phrase controversy surrounding the use of “very many” is a window into the wider debate about language attitudes and how they shape communication patterns. It’s no surprise then that opinions on this expression can vary significantly among individuals.

“Very many” could be construed as redundant or overemphasized, detracting from the intended message. On the other hand, its supporters maintain that it serves a purpose in expressing a heightened sense of abundance, particularly in casual conversation. Ultimately, the appropriateness of “very many” boils down to personal preference and the desired effect on the audience.

One way to approach these differing opinions is to consider that language is not static and that its continuous evolution is determined by a multitude of factors. These include cultural context, communicative intent, and social environment. As such, no single “correct” answer or perspective exists when it comes to evaluating the legitimacy or effectiveness of an expression like “very many.”

  1. Recognize and respect the diversity of language attitudes, accepting that linguistic fluidity is a fundamental aspect of human communication.
  2. Stay vigilant about linguistic trends, being open to incorporating new expressions and adapting one’s language use as needed.
  3. Ultimately, focus on clarity and effectiveness in communication, seeking to strike a balance between adhering to established norms and embracing innovation.
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The debate surrounding the use of “very many” exemplifies the intricate and ever-evolving nature of language attitudes. By understanding and acknowledging that language is a complex, living entity shaped by myriad influences, English speakers can better appreciate the nuances, diversity, and adaptability that characterize their shared mode of expression.

Alternative Expressions to “Very Many”

Utilizing alternative quantifiers to “very many” can enhance your vocabulary and enable clear communication. Expressions like “a large number,” “countless,” and “numerous” offer similar meanings, enriching your language and providing opportunities to tailor the clarity of your message. Experimenting with different quantifiers will allow you to express precise language expression, heightening the effectiveness of your communication.

Enhancing Language with Different Quantifiers

The gradient of quantities ranging from “very many” to “very few” presents a spectrum for you to convey various levels of abundance or scarcity. However, employing a straightforward approach such as “not enough” offers simplicity and avoids the need for gradation. Regardless of your choice, understanding the context in which you speak or write will help you select the appropriate quantifier for precise expression.

Phrasing for Clarity and Precision in Communication

Selecting the correct quantifier or avoiding them altogether is often suggested for clarity and precision in expressing quantities in English. The contrast between “very many” and simpler alternatives highlights the importance of context in determining the most effective phrasing. Additionally, make note of the linguistic necessity for a connecting word like “of” when using quantifiers followed by pronouns, like in the phrase “I know very many of them.” Ultimately, the choices you make to use or avoid certain phrases, such as “very many,” play a crucial role in achieving clarity and precision in both spoken and written English communication.

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