5 Vote

In today's synonym/antonym thread, one of our faithful and excellent contributors used the word "lots". I have always been told that this was slang for "a lot". I commented that this should be changed, but then doubted myself.

After making a search, I am still not able to come up with a conclusive answer. Some dictionaries include the word "lots", others use it only to define the idea of "drawing lots", etc.

I'm sure someone out there has an opinion and an answer. I'm interested to know what others think. smile

  • Posted Apr 20, 2010
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  • Good question. - --Mariana-- Apr 20, 2010 flag
  • Gracias Marianne. You are such an encouraging person! :) - Nicole-B Apr 20, 2010 flag
  • I agree...great question, Nicole :) - Izanoni1 Apr 20, 2010 flag

8 Answers

4 Vote

This is dictionary that I use as my reference dictionary. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/lots

14. Often, lots. a great many or a great deal: a lot of books; lots of money.

  • I have similar examples Jeezzle. The reason I am confused is because I remember being corrected for using "lots" in school and also by my father who was an English major. - Nicole-B Apr 20, 2010 flag
  • I was an English major for awhile, I also went to a private school where the nuns told us "can't" was incorrect and we should use "can not". I think language evolves and the old archetypes try to cling to the old. I believe lots is correct here though. - jeezzle Apr 20, 2010 flag
  • i thought it was cannot - sunshinzmomm Apr 20, 2010 flag
  • I have always used "can not" also. Now I will have to check that word out also. :) I had never contemplated so much on the English language until I started learning Spanish. - Nicole-B Apr 20, 2010 flag
  • I often worried when I said "lots" here on our website...excellent question, Nicole. - billy-jones Apr 20, 2010 flag
4 Vote

In the context of meaning a "bunch" of something, I'd say "lots" and "a lot" are often synonymous.

Both of these are correct, for example:

"I get lots of mail" and "I get a lot of mail."

"I have lots of friends" and "I have a lot of friends."

Nevertheless, I feel more comfortable saying "a lot." Using "lots" in most cases feels...um...uneducated?

  • I feel the same way Marianne. I often say the word "lots" in every day life, but feel uncomfortable putting it in print. I still remember being scolded by a nun in high school for this. - Nicole-B Apr 20, 2010 flag
2 Vote

I agree with everything that has been written, but wanted to add that the Brits would also say 'loads' as well as 'lots'. I.e. 'I get loads of mail', 'I have loads of stamps'...

Also, you're right in that you do 'draw lots' as well smile

  • Americans occasionally use "loads" as well. I think it is easier for me to accept this as being correct. - Nicole-B Apr 20, 2010 flag
  • Kiwis use 'heaps', eg. there's heaps of reasons why I'm replying to this. very informal - MiguelitoNZ Apr 20, 2010 flag
  • What about "tons"..."I have tons of work to do today.".....I think we're on a roll!!! :) - Nicole-B Apr 20, 2010 flag
  • Also "oodles"! - torrontes75 Apr 21, 2010 flag
2 Vote

I have "looked into" lots and "cannot".

I can not (can't) find a reference to "cannot" but have used it all my life.

In speaking you can't hear that it is different from "can not" but I have written "cannot" more times than I could possibly count.

As for "lots" that is in the Oxford Thesaurus of English / alongside "a lot" - and I have wriiten and said it all my life.

2 Vote

Hi Ian...."Can't," "cannot," and "can not" are all acceptable spelling. If you have any doubts, you can try looking them up here:

cannot

can't

(These terms both appear in Webster's as well) smile

  • Thanks for that - I obviously don't have enough dictionaries Iza :) - ian-hill Apr 21, 2010 flag
2 Vote

Who has the final say in matters of the English language. Although I feel like this is something I should know, sadly I do not.

This might sound strange to hear, but "usage" is based on...usage, and not on dictionaries. For this reason, it is often said that dictionaries by nature can only be "descriptive" and not "prescriptive."

In regards to the RAE, there has never been a successful undertaking to "fix" or "purify" a language. However, if you are looking for a comprehensive study on the evolution of word usage in English, I have not found a better source for this purpose than the Oxford English Dictionary.

  • Thanks Ira, this topic can be confusing. There so many absolutes in grammar, yet at the same time, language "is" constantly evolving. - Nicole-B Apr 20, 2010 flag
  • Can anyone ever truly have enough dictionaries...jeje - Izanoni1 Apr 21, 2010 flag
1 Vote

Ian said:

I can not (can't) find a reference to "cannot" but have used it all my life.

Izanoni said:

Hi Ian...."Can't," "cannot," and "can not" are all acceptable spelling. If you have any doubts, you can try looking them up here:

This is the thing that has been driving me crazy today. It seems that some dictionaries list these words and/or spellings, while others do not.

I have heard that the Real Academia Español has the final say in all things Spanish. Who has the final say in matters of the English language. Although I feel like this is something I should know, sadly I do not. red face

  • "Power to the People" Nicole. - ian-hill Apr 21, 2010 flag
0 Vote

Re can not v cannot, I've always thought they had slightly different uses.

Cannot is abbreviated to can't, but adds emphasis. E.g. 'I cannot believe that you can't read' is more emphatic than using can't.

Can not is used to suggest something that it is possible for you not to do, e.g. 'you can not study today', meaning 'it is possible for you to not study today'.

At least that's what I've always thought!!!

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