There is a surprising amount of confusion between these two words (one of which isn’t actually a word) and which is the correct form to appear in your sentences.
Today I want to go over the difference between a lot vs. alot and show you a few tricks to remember which of them to use. After reading this post, you won’t ever confuse them again.
Alot vs. A lot?
While it may be common to see the word “alot” throughout Internet commenting or text messaging, the word is never seen in print, and the reason is simple: it isn’t an actual word.
That’s right. If you go to any dictionary, you will not find the word “alot” as an entry, which makes it all the more interesting why the confusion between the two exists.
What Is a “Lot”?
The two-word construction a lot is just that: two separate words. You have the article a and the noun lot. The word lot is defined as, “a large number or amount, a great deal.” For example,
- You just drank a lot of milk with dinner.
- Your car uses a lot of gas.
- You read a lot of books.
Just as you wouldn’t combine other instances of article + noun constructions in your sentences, adog, acat, ahorse, etc., you don’t combine the two words a lot. There’s no rhyme or reason to why people combine the words, but plenty of people make the mistake.
And no one knows exactly why. It could be that since the word lot isn’t used in many other instances besides the phrase a lot that writers began to think of alot as the actual word being used and not lot.
Other uses of lot, such as a beautiful lot of land or a parking lot, often pale in comparison to the frequency of the phrase a lot, so it’s easy to see how people could get mixed up. Even this, however, isn’t a totally convincing reason because the plural use of lot (lots) is used correctly with great frequency.
Another possible explanation is the similar features the phrase a lot has with the unrelated word allot.
When to Use Allot
Despite sounding similar to—and being spelled similar as—a lot, the single word allot is an unrelated verb. To allot something is “to give or apportion something to someone as a share.” For example,
- Will you please allot me my share of the inheritance?
- The lawyer allotted the remained assets from the will.
- During the debate, equal time will be allotted to each party.
As I said above, the fact that this word sounds and looks similar to a lot may cause some people to confuse the two.
Remember the Difference
Now that we know why a lot is the correct choice for our sentences, here are a few tricks to remember.
Something my grade school English teacher would say to help us remember is,
- A lot is a lot of words.
Another great trick I learned from a reader of mine is similar to the analogy I gave above about combine words like a dog into adog.
- You cannot say “alittle,” so you cannot say “alot.”
Makes sense doesn’t it?
It’s important to keep track of these two words in your writing because alot vs. a lot are very different.
Alot is not a word.
A lot is the correct choice.