How Many of This Do You Want?
by Cherie Tucker
Just as the difference between fewer and less continues to confound people, so does the difference between this kind and these kinds.
- “Fewer” deals with things that can be counted: You should have fewer responsibilities around here after that mess.
“Less” deals with volume: There is less water in the pond this year.
The trouble comes when that difference is not recognized, and people carelessly say “There’s less kids in the class this year.”
The same singular/plural situation arises when designating one item versus a number of items.
- Do you want more of this chocolate?
- Do you want more of these chocolates?
You often read about “these kind of vegetables,” instead of either “these kinds” or “this kind.” It’s the kind vs. kinds that confuse. When the thing you are talking about singular, even if it refers to a collection of many things, you use the singular this. If it’s plural, then you need the plural these or those.
- How much of this kind of exercise can you handle?
- How many of these kinds of exercises can you handle?
Notice that you had to change “much” that talks about one kind of exercise to “many” when the exercise went plural.
Being aware of these kinds of changes will allow you to do two things: you can write error-free works, or you can write with deliberate errors to indicate a character’s limited educational background. Just don’t be that character.
Cherie Tucker, owner of GrammarWorks, has taught writing basics to professionals since 1987, presenting at the PNWA conference. She currently teaches Practical Grammar for Editors at the University of Washington’s Editing Certification program and edits as well. GrammarWorks@msn.com.