My daughter just asked me this question, and it took me quite a while to come up with an answer. I thought I'd see what everyone else thinks. If you have a countable noun, but in a context in which you are not going to count the items individually, do you say how many or how much? How much raisins clearly sounds wrong, but ask "how many raisins do you need for this recipe" and your smart-aleck mother is likely to say something like "97" instead of the expected "1/2 cup." "How much raisins" and "how many raisins" both sound wrong to me in this context -- I finally decided that the only answer I could really endorse was "how many cups of raisins" or "how many ounces of raisins." (Even "cups" doesn't sound quite right if you know that the answer is going to be a fraction of a cup.)

This raises the larger question of grammar and context -- I would not have said before that choosing the correct form of a question depended on knowing the answer in advance, but here it seems to. I would hesitate to ask "how many raisins" if I knew that the answer was not going to be a specific number of raisins. What do you all think?

(And thanks, guys, for being there -- I don't know many people in "real life" interested in discussing a question like this!)
So sorry. You are not allowed to ask impossible questions on this forum.
Delete post. Delete post. Delete post. Emotion: smile

Strangely, I find the following exchange acceptable.

-- How many raisins do you use in that recipe?
-- A half cup.

But then again, I also find the following acceptable.

-- Have you got enough raisins for that recipe?
-- I do.

Go figure.


In reality, I might 'prime' the question thus:

-- Is a cup of raisins too much for that recipe?
-- Yes. Way too much. I use only a half cup.


-- What amount do you use in that recipe when it comes to raisins?
-- About 8 ounces.
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Hi Khoff,

(And thanks, guys, for being there -- I don't know many people in "real life" interested in discussing a question like this!) Wait a minute, I thought this was real life! I've clearly been misinformed.

Yes, interesting conundrum. 'How much raisins' sounds common to me in such a context. Or maybe 'How much of the raisins . . .' Perhaps one could argue that the thought is 'What quantity of raisins. . .?'

If I wanted to avoid smarty-pants answers like '97', I might ask 'Do I need a lot of raisins . . . ?' Or hold up a handful and say "Does this look like enough raisins?' Gestures should never be underrated in communication.

But if we ramble on like this, the cookies will never get made . . .

Best wishes, Clive
I think Clive brings up an interesting point.

Make cookies first. (And send us samples.) Talk about grammar later.