Difference between Amount and Number

Updated on August 2, 2016

Many people use the words “amount” and “number” interchangeably, not knowing that each has its proper usage. Although in a sense they are synonyms, their functions in describing words are specific. Read on and learn.

Definitions

amount
Some amount of sugar

The term amount originated from the Old French word “amonter” which means “upward”, as well as the Latin words “ad” meaning “to” and “montem” meaning “mountain”. Combined, these words mean “to rise in number”. This term is found before words or nouns in their singular form and is used to describe mass (uncountable) nouns like sand, fine sugar, and rice grains, or items that come in bulk. It is also used to refer to emotions, intentions, conditions, and characteristics. For example, “The amount of love that man has for his wife is evident through the consistency of his actions.”

Number of crayons
Number of crayons

The word number originated from the Old French word “nombre” which came from the Latin word “numerous”, meaning quantity. This word is found before words or nouns that are in their plural form and is used to describe countable objects, whether individual or collective. A sample sentence would be, “A number of One Directions fans are eager for their concert to start.”

Amount vs Number

So what is the difference between amount and number? Although both terms indicate measurement, each has a specific function. Amount is used to refer to objects that cannot be counted such as sawdust, ground pepper, or salt, as well as a variety of emotions and virtues like love, anger, humility, or pride. It describes items in bulk and comes before nouns in their singular form (e.g. an ample amount of salt, a fair amount of love). Number, on the other hand, refers to things that can be counted, whether individually or collectively as a single unit such as shoes, vehicles, and buildings, or basketball teams, rock bands, and student organizations. It comes before nouns in their plural form (e.g. a number of scattered toys, a number of vintage cars).

Comparison Chart

AmountNumber
Used to refer to objects that cannot be countedUsed to refer to objects that can be counted
Describes items in bulkDescribes items individually or collectively as a single unit
Precedes nouns in their singular formPrecedes nouns in their plural form
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