Word Confusion: Amount versus Number

Posted October 28, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 15 February 2018

Hmmm, I clicked over to “Amount versus Number” on my website and didn’t like what I saw, so I thought I’d re-do this post.

“Amount versus Number” originally came up when I ran across a sheet from one of my prerequisite English classes — in college!! — which listed “Confusing Word Pairs” and amount versus number was one of the pairs listed. I find them confusing myself, so I’m looking forward to having an easy reference on amount and number in the future.

Stressing the Difference Between Amount and Number
Amount Number
How much have you had to drink tonight?

Oh, a fair amount.

The drinker has not been counting.

The number of logs used to build this house was astonishing.

You really can count how many logs were used.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Amount Number
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

“You’ll Never Amount to Anything” courtesy of American Hell.

  1. 1st item
    1. 1st nested item
    2. 2nd nested item
      1. 1st sub-nested item
  2. 2nd item

I know, it’s dull. But it does get the point across…

Part of Grammar:
Noun 1;
Verb, intransitive 2

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: amounts
Past tense or past participle: amounted
Gerund or present participle: amounting

Noun 3;
Verb, intransitive & transitive 4

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: numbers
Past tense or past participle: numbered
Gerund or present participle: numbering

Can’t be counted

A quantity of something, typically the total of a thing or things in number, size, value, or extent

  • A sum of money

Verb, intransitive:
amount to

Come to be the total when added together

  • Be the equivalent of
  • Develop into
  • Become
Can be counted

An arithmetical value, expressed by a word, symbol, or figure, representing a particular quantity and used in counting and making calculations and for showing order in a series or for identification

  • [Numbers] Dated arithmetic

A quantity or amount

  • [A number of] several
  • A group or company of people
  • [Numbers] A large quantity or amount, often in contrast to a smaller one
  • Numerical preponderance

A single issue of a magazine

  • A song, dance, piece of music, etc., esp. one of several in a performance
  • [Usually with adjective; informal] A thing, typically an item of clothing, of a particular type, regarded with approval or admiration

[Grammar] A distinction of word form denoting reference to one person or thing or to more than one

Verb, intransitive:
To make a total

  • Reach an amount

To be numbered or included (usually followed by among or with)

To count

Verb, transitive:
Amount to (a specified figure or quantity)


  • Include or classify as a member of a group

Mark with a number or assign a number to, typically to indicate position in a series

  • Count

See the rule on how number can be a singular or plural noun.

He ate a fair amount of roast beef.

A good marriage can withstand any amount of pressure.

no amount of pressure can be brought to bear

We sold a comparable amount in the second quarter.

The sport gives an enormous amount of pleasure to many people.

The substance is harmless if taken in small amounts.

They have spent a colossal amount rebuilding the stadium.

Verb, intransitive:
Losses amounted to over 10 million dollars.

Their actions amounted to a conspiracy.

What this guy was doing clearly did amount to persecution.

You’ll never amount to anything.

She dialed the number carefully.

I prefer an even number.

The boy was adept at numbers.

The company is seeking to increase the number of women on its staff.

The exhibition attracted vast numbers of visitors.

We have discussed the matter on a number of occasions.

There were some distinguished names among our number.

The weight of numbers turned the battle against them.

the October number of Travel

They go from one melodious number to another.

Yvonne was wearing a little black number.

Whole numbers are easier to add up.

We’ve had a large number of complaints.

Jane and Mike went to the wedding of one of their number

The band performed another number.

Verb, intransitive:
Casualties numbered in the thousands.

Several eminent scientists number among his friends.

Number the new stock, please.

Verb, transitive:
Visitors numbered more than two million.

He numbers the fleet at a thousand.

Each paragraph is numbered.

He numbers her among his friends.

His days are numbered.

The orchestra numbers Brahms among its past conductors.

Each document was numbered consecutively.

Strategies like ours can be numbered on the fingers of one hand.

You may also want to see:
For information on formatting numbers, see Abbreviation

Using numbers with street addresses

Numbers in general

Comparing numbers

Dealing with numbers that are side by side

When and how to approximate or round numbers

Time and when to spell out numbers

Numbers and the percent symbol, %

When you must spell out a number or use Arabic figures

Pluralizing an Arabic figure

Regarding the grammar of numbers, see Cardinal numbers

As a Group or Collective Noun

When a number is singular or plural.

Commas and numbers

Proper use of the en dash and numbers

Proper use of the hyphen for compound numbers, used in relation to age, with a prefix, and when to use a hyphen to separate numbers.

Using a slash with numbers.

History of the Word:
1 Early 18th century

2 Middle English from the Old French amunter, from amont meaning upward, literally uphill, from the Latin ad montem.

3 Middle English from the Old French nombre from the Latin numerus.

4 Middle English from the Old French nombrer from the Latin numerus.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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Pinterest Photo Credits

Both images are in the public domain: SweeTarts-Candies is Evan-Amos’ own work, via Wikimedia Commons, and Reef Sea Boat by Dawid Zawiła is via VisualHunt.

2 responses to “Word Confusion: Amount versus Number

    • I must admit it’s not one that I’ve paid much attention to before—these word confusions sometimes help ME a lot! I think it’s been more instinctive on my part as I seem to retain so much of what I read—and I’ve been reading for donkey’s years, LOL!