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Dr Klaus Bung
68 Brantfell Road
© 2012 Klaus Bung
Lots of examples and a lot to think about
This article discusses the difference, if any, between "lots of" and "a lot of": "I have lots of money" vs "I have a lot of money", and "I have got lots of money" vs "I have lots of money", and "Have you a book" vs "Do you have a book", and related expressions.
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2012-01-13 Lots of examples and a lot to think about
In a forum for English language students somebody asked:
Is there a difference between
(1) I've a lot of lovely friends here.
(2) I've lots of lovely friends here.
I am trying to ponder the question here.
There is no difference in meaning, or if there is, it is so small that it is not worth thinking about.
The only alternatives you could consider are:
(3a) I have a lot of ...,
(3b) I have lots of ...
(4) I've got a lot of lovely friends.
(5) I've got lots of lovely friends.
I believe that using the "got" is more British in style, and without the "got" it is more American. But I have heard both, they mean the same, and nobody here would bat an eye lid if he heard the less British or the more British form.
There are things like the following to consider:
(6) Do you have a book? = (7) Have you got a book? (both mean exactly the same)
(8) "Have you a book?" is, I think, decidedly old-fashioned, if not wrong.
Note that (9) "Have you seen him?" is an entirely different construction and would not belong into this discussion. (8) deals with a noun object, whereas (9) uses "have" as an auxiliary verb.
Examples for (8).
Henry James (American novelist) writes in 1886, in "The Bostonians": "Why have you a manner that ...", where I would write in modern and British English: "Why do you have a manner ...". He has many more such constructions in his other novels.
Herman Melville (American) writes in "Moby Dick" (1851): "I haven't enough twine,—have you any?"; where I would write in modern and British English: "I don't have enough twine; do you have any?"
D H Lawrence (British novelist) writes in "Women in Love" (1920): "Have you a pair of shoes for Miss Brangwen?", where I would write: "Do you have a pair ..."
G K Chesterton (British) writes in "The Napoleon of Notting Hill" (1904)
Have you a rich style?", where I would write: "Do you have a rich style?"
Joseph Conrad (British) writes in "Nostromo" (1904): "Have you a better place?", where I would write: "Do you have a better place?"
Jane Austen (British) writes in "Emma" (1815): "Have you a chair?", where I would write "Do you have a chair?"
Charlotte Bronte (British) writes in "Jane Eyre" (1847): "Have you a sponge in your room?", where I would write: "Do you have a sponge?"
Shakespeare writes in "Hamlet" (before 1607) : "Have you a daughter?", where I would write: "Do you have a daughter?"
and many more examples of this kind.
I have taken the above examples from a limited database of English language books which I collected from the Internet and keep on my hard drive. It contains only reputable authors and is therefore more valuable than searching in Google where all the rubbish ever written in English will also be found. Whatever I find in my small database is at least worth thinking about.
My database is large and useful by my standards but much smaller than I would like it to be. It contains the literary books (mainly fiction) which I happen to have downloaded over the years. I add a few books to it from time to time when I have reason to read or consult them. It only contains books which are by now out of copyright, i.e. all its books are by now over 50 years old. It is useful for demonstrating what DOES exist but not for proving what does NOT exist.
It produced the above examples, but it did not produce a single example of "Do you have ...". I do not know whether this would be different if I had been able to search books published during the last 30 years, since my feeling is that "Have you a ..." is either old-fashioned or American. Perhaps I am wrong in this. American English has generally preserved many features of older English which have disappeared in modern British English.
I searched Google.
- "Do you have a " yielded 1,570 million hits
- "Have you a " yielded 1,290 million hits
- "Have you got a " yielded 37 million hits
Honestly, these are lots of hits = This is a lot of hits..
Observe plural (lots are) vs singular (a lot is). .
These are many hits. Reason: "hits" is plural. There is no way in which you can bring "much" into one of these sentence.
Remember the following expressions, which are correct:
- much money, much water
- many people, many students
I also searched Google for "lots of / a lot of".
- "lots of" yielded 830 million hits
- "a lot of" hielded 7,420 million hits
Frankly, this is a lot of hits = These are lots of hits.
I also tried my private literary database for
- "lots of" (315 hits) and
- "a lot of" (765 hits).
Here are some examples:
"There are a lot of things you can do with Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works if you follow the terms of this agreement ..."
"he called me ten times a donkey, and piled a lot of jackasses on top of THAT!" (Hermann Melville, Moby Dick)
"Ten pounds is a lot of money" (Shaw, Pygmalion).
Interestingly, in this case it would not be equally good to say "Ten pounds is lots of money". My initial answer applies to "lots of/a lot of" after "I have" and in specific contexts.
But "lots of/a lot of" ARE equivalent in the following sentences:
(10) He gave me lots of money. = (11) He gave me a lot of money.
I can not yet say why the two expressions are equivalent in one context and not in the other.
I found many examples of "a lot of" in Shaw. Therefore I now searched for "lots of" only in Shaw. In my Shaw collection I found 15 files containing "a lot of" and 41 files containing "lots of"
(11) "Lots of people do it." (Shaw: The Doctor's Dilemma)
(12) "chloroform has done a lot of mischief." (Shaw: The Doctor's Dilemma)
So both expressions are used in the same play..
Try to replace "lots of/a lot of" by "much" and "many".
"Lots of people do it" = "A lot of people do it" = "many people do it"
*much people do it
"chloroform has done a lot of mischief." = "chloroform has done much mischief."
*chloroform has done many mischief
I now compared the frequency of "lots of/a lot of" in Melville.
In my Melville collection I found 14 files containing "a lot of" and 2 files containing "lots of". Interesting, but proves nothing as yet. I had no time to investigate (as I should have done) each example in Shaw and in Melville for its specific features.
I must stop the discussion here because I do not want it to turn into a three-year research project. I have given you lots of examples and a lot to think about, or in simpler English: I have given you many examples and much to think about.
Lots of love
You can end a letter to a close friend (usually of the opposite sex) with "Lots of love" or "Much love" or simply "Love (comma, signature)", which does not mean that you are "in love" with that person. In English the phrase is so frequent that it means much less than it does if you translate it literally into your own language. It does NOT mean "I love you". It is just a very warm and friendly way of ending a letter. But do not use it when writing to your boss, or to a superior.
But you can not end a letter with "A lot of love". Nevertheless if you google "a lot of love", you get 25 million hits. But they refer to phrases such as "I need a lot of love right now", or "There is a lot of love in their relationship" or "There was not a lot of love in their marriage" (which is the English understated way of saying: "They hated each other").
For "lots of love" Google gives you 15 million hits.
LOL means "laughing out loud". It does not mean "lots of love". There is a story making the rounds on the Internet about a mother who wrongly thought that LOL meant "lots of love". When her husband committed suicide because she had nagged him incessantly, she texted her daughter: "Your Dad is dead. LOL, Mum."
"Mum" is not only an affectionate word (an endearment) for "mother", but there is also the expression "Mum's the word" (= Mum is the word), which means "Do not tell any one, keep quiet about it".