“How many” and “how much” are used the same way and with the same sentence patterns, but we use different nouns with them.
Let’s take a look at how we use “how many” and “how much” properly in English.
If we want to know how to use “how many” and “how much” then we need to know some of the different kinds of nouns in English.
In English, there are count nouns and non-count nouns. Count nouns are things that we can count (1,2,3,4, etc.).
There are two kinds of count nouns – singular nouns and plural nouns. Singular means one (1). Plural means more than one (2+).
So, we use a singular count noun is when there is just one person, place, or thing. We often use articles (a/an/the) with singular nouns.
There is a dog.
She has an orange.
One car drove past me very fast.
We use plural nouns when there is more than one person, place, or thing.
There are 10 dogs.
She has 2 oranges.
Five cars drove past me very fast.
Last, there are non-count nouns. These are things that we cannot count or things that are too small to count. Here is a list of common non-count nouns.
air happiness snow rain
water juice gas stress
time work money love
sugar butter salt sand
“Time” is non-count because there are many units of time. So, “time” is a non-count noun, but “seconds”, “minutes”, “hours”, “days”, “weeks”, etc., are count nouns. This is the same for money and work.
Sometimes, we can change a non-count noun into a count noun using a counter word.
water (non-count) / one bottle of water (count noun)
sugar (non-count) / 3 cups of sugar (count noun)
Now, we are ready to look at the difference between “how many” and “how much”.
1. Use “how many + plural count nouns”. We cannot use a singular noun here. The noun has to be plural.
How many chairs are in the room?
How many sisters do you have?
How many hours did you work yesterday?
How many days until Christmas?
How many people will come?
2. Use “how much + non-count nouns”.
How much time do we have?
How much stress does she have?
How much sugar do we need?
How much money did she spend?
Sometimes, we do not need the noun. We can do this when the noun is easily understood by the listener.
How much did she spend?
(=How much money did she spend?)
We leave out the noun usually when we are talking about the weather or money.
How much did it rain?
How much did it snow?
How much did it cost?
3. Notice that we do not use singular nouns with these questions, but we can use singular nouns when we answer these questions.
A) How many eggs do you need?
B) I need one egg.
A) How many sisters does Mark have?
B) Mark has only one sister.
All we need to remember is that we use “how many” with plural count nouns.
How many bottles of water do you have with you?
How many children do you have?
How many apples do we need to make the pie?
And we use “how much” with non-count nouns.
How much time do you need?
How much gas is in the tank?
How much money is in the bag?
We can leave out the noun when it can be inferred.
How much does it cost?
How much did it rain?
Or we can leave out the noun when it was mentioned earlier and both the listener and speaker already know it.
A) I need some eggs.
B) How many (eggs) do you need?