Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you heard somebody use the word “quantity” in English?

Have you also heard people use the word “number” to seemingly describe the same thing?

This can be a tricky aspect of conversation, because it seems as though they are often used interchangeably.

Today we’re going to look at these two words, how they are used, and which one you can use in conversation based on what you are talking about.

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Hello Lindsay,

Thank you for all of your help, and I just love the show! I have a question for you that I’m hoping you can help with. I was writing an essay and it says something about “quantity of people.”

I mean can I use quantity as an equivalent to “number?” I assume that’s what it means, but I’m just not sure. I’ve heard it used like quantity of students, quantity of members, but I could just use some clarification.

Can you please help me to understand this?

Thank you again,

Doniyorbek Abdurahmonov

Understanding How This Works

When you look at this example, you can really use either.

Our listener gave examples where each noun is countable such as in students, members, or people.

You could say “number” or “quantity” and they both work the same.

You can see how this works when you look at some helpful examples.

“A number of people told me they enjoyed the presentation.” “A small number of people asked questions.”

“The quantity of people at the party was astounding.”

“A large quantity of people brought their own materials.”

So you see that they can really be used interchangeably because in this context, they mean the same sort of thing.

Looking At The Grammar Behind This

It can help to understand the grammar or the structure of how this all works.

Let’s look at the grammar of both words so that you can understand the makeup of each one.

  • Number: This is used for count nouns. You could say “A small number of participants showed up late.”
  • Quantity/quantities: This is used with both uncountable and countable nouns, and therefore you may see it used more often. It tends to be less casual sounding and is fitting for a professional type of context. You might hear “A large quantity of air conditioners were delivered to the site.” You could also say “Small quantities of flowers were sent to the house.” A final example that you could use would be “A large quantity of furniture was purchased by the family.”
  • Amount: This is uncountable, and therefore you might not see it used as often. It’s worth being aware of this one, though you would tend to use quantity and number the most in this context. You could say something like “The amount of food at the party was unbelievable.”

This is a topic that you could go deeper into, but for the time being we’ll just focus on this as the main point.

These are two ways to say something similar, but you can see how they are a bit different too.

An Expression Within This Area

Now we want to teach an important expression dealing with one of these words.

This is a phrase that you will hear used often, and so you want to understand it so that you can make it a part of the conversation.

The phrase is “Quality or quantity”, and some people may reverse it or say the word versus instead.

You may have even heard this phrase used before, and so you want to understand its true meaning.

What does this expression mean?

It may be used like this “I don’t know, I believe in quality over quantity when it comes to my wedding. I’d rather it be smaller and more intimate but amazing.”

This means to focus on what is of substance or quality, rather than to focus just on the number.

A good example of this is with the friends you have in your life.

You would much rather have a few good quality friends, rather than having a high quantity of friends.

This can apply to so many other areas of your life such as trips that you take, or even the food that you eat.

It essentially means that you don’t want to focus too much on how much you have of something, but rather focus on the quality of it instead.

This can even apply to learning a language—you want to focus on the quality of the material that you use rather than taking in a lot of different material from a lot of different sources.

This is all about focusing on what really matters, and then using this to help you appreciate what you really have.

This is an important expression used often, and it’s also all about your mindset in certain situations.


We looked at the basic differences between “quantity” and “number”, and now you know how to use them.

Look back at these examples to get started, as this can help you to determine which one fits in each situation.

This is a great conversation starter and also something to think about as well.

This is an aspect of conversation that will come up frequently, so be prepared to use it.

The more practice that you get with this, the more that you will be able to master it and use it freely to describe what you are dealing with in the moment.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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