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When do we use たくさん and when do we use 多い? I found both modifiers are used within similar sentences, for example:

人が多かったです
人がたくさんいました

I had this impression that 多い is used with countable nouns (i.e. similar to "many") while たくさん can be used with both countable and uncountable, but seems like it is used with "お金":

ふだんの生活で使うお金が多いからか――ということです

At first, I thought maybe in Japanese language "お金" is considered as countable, unlike the word "money" in English, but again I realized I was wrong when I found:

きょうは水が多いですね

Now I'm thinking that maybe the concepts of countable vs uncountable in Japanese are not as significant as in English. It seems to me that both たくさん and 多い may be used interchangeably.

Am I right? Or are there actually places where only one of them can be used but not the other?

EDIT:

Additional question: how are they related to potentially antonyms 少し and 少ない? Is 少し antonym of たくさん while 少ない is antonym of 多い, or vice versa, or it does not matter either way?

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May be you can be seen たくさん on 絵本(えほん) for children, so most people use たくさん from childhood, and may be 多かった is 大人っぽい言い方. –  YOU Jun 9 '11 at 5:23
    
And there is another usage, 人がいっぱいいました。 –  YOU Jun 9 '11 at 5:25
    
いっぱい is to give a sense of "going over the limit" like to much water in a glass. Colloquial and maybe not another usage of ooi and takusan. If someone feels like paraphrasing/translating this: detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1325928873 –  repecmps Jun 9 '11 at 7:31
    
There is also 大勢, but that's easy: It means "numerous", and is only used for people. –  Kdansky Jun 24 '11 at 15:18

3 Answers 3

up vote 13 down vote accepted

I don't think the existing answers are hitting this question from quite the right angle, so here is my take:

First, in sentences where you only wish to mention the presence of "a large number" or "a large quantity", 多い and たくさん can often be interchanged, provided you do some grammatical fiddling to get the rest of the sentence to work:

人が多いですね。 There are a lot of people here, huh?

人がたくさんいますね。 There are a lot of people here, huh?

多くの人が参加しました。 Many people participated.

たくさんの人が参加しました。 Many people participated.

But there's an alternate interpretation for the third sentence: 多くの could simply mean "a lot", but it could also mean "a large proportion". It's this idea of largeness in proportion or ratio that たくさん does not have. This shows up in sentences comparing one quantity to another:

今日は水が多いですね。 There's more water [than before] today.

これからは機会が多くなりそうです。 It looks like we'll have more opportunities [than before] from now on.

今年の春は去年の同じ時期より雨が多く降りました。 This spring, more rain fell than during the same time last year.

Note that 雨が多く降った is a legal sentence, but only within the proper context of comparing proportions, as demonstrated by the third sentence above.

By extension, 多い comes with a meaning similar to "more than necessary". This is another meaning たくさん does not have:

10人ならいいけど、20人はちょっと多いですね。 10 people would be good, but 20 is a bit much.

あのさ、これ、多くない? Hey, isn't this too much?

You cannot replace 多い with たくさん in the above examples, because たくさん lacks the ability to compare a quantity to a certain level.

In response to your additional question about 少し and 少ない: Yes, you can think of these two as corresponding with たくさん and 多い, respectively. 少し only refers to quantity, but 少ない has the additional meanings of "small in proportion" and "less than necessary".

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Thanks for catching my 変換ミス, Tsuyoshi. I wish I could upvote you for a revision. –  Derek Schaab Jun 9 '11 at 13:43
    
heys btw why did you use 多くの人が参加しました。 instead of 多い人が参加しました。 –  Pacerier Jun 24 '11 at 11:27
    
@Pacerier: That's just the way 多い works. :) If you wanted to say "a person who has a lot of friends", you could say 友だちの多い人, but for "a lot of people", 多い人 doesn't work; you have to say 多くの人. 多い is kind of quirky like that. –  Derek Schaab Jun 24 '11 at 12:43
    
@Derek heys cool, so just to be sure.. 多い is just an exception and the other i-adjectives definitely don't follow this rule right? –  Pacerier Jun 24 '11 at 17:30
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@Pacerier: I don't know if I can make a blanket statement like that, but 多い is the only one I can think of at the moment. 少ない人 is also incorrect, but unlike 多い, you can't say 少なくの人 either. There's probably more linguistic weirdness waiting around the corner if you go look for it. –  Derek Schaab Jun 24 '11 at 21:12

In response to the found statement:

"今日は水が多いですね"

This does not make sense. Literally, "There is a lot of water today." So since it is not sensible, i would not use it to debunk your thoughts.

Let's consider rain and the two following statements to try and express "It rained a lot today, didn't it?"

今日は雨がたくさん降りましたね。
今日は雨が多く降りましたね。

Simply, the second is nonsensical. Here you can see the clear difference between 多い being countable and たくさん as either countable (as shown in your question) or uncountable. Instead, what you could say to use 多い and rain would be: (possibly what the initial 水が多い statement was meaning.

最近雨が多いです。The frequency was high.

Also, another thing to take note of for those who are newish to this kind of grammar is that たくさん is an adverb and 多い is an adjective and so the normal rules apply. adverb + verb, adjective + be-verb (です) or noun.

Now, to clarify, I am quoting from the Japan Times "A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar", pg 354. This also slightly contradicts my answer above.

多い means (of quantity or number) a lot, many, a lot of, much. Similar to 大勢、たくさん. (大勢, it is noted, is only used for people.)

Going of this and other articles, like the one from Asahi, 多い is used correctly when referring to the quantity of an uncountable material or thing (like snow, water, rain) but is not as flexible as たくさん. I will illustrate with a few samples from the text.

1. 京都(に)はお寺が多いです。
2. ロスさんの作文(に)は間違いが多いです。
3. 一月(に)は雪が多い。

"Unlike the English 'many', the Japanese 多い cannot be used before a noun, except in a relative clause where 多い is the predicate of the clause, not the modifier of the head noun." This is an example where 多い is not as flexible as たくさん.

4. 京都(に)は多いお寺があります。 Incorrect. Corrected is 京都には多くのお寺があります。  
5. お寺が多い町は京都です。 Correct. (the predicate of a clause thingy)

There are also examples of where たくさん can and cannot be used in place of 多い.

6. この部屋(に)は つくえが多いだ/たくさんある。  
7. この部屋(に)は学生が多いだ/たくさんいる。  
8. 今年はたくさん/*多く/*大勢雪が降った。  

多く can be used as a noun, but the other two cannot.

9. 学生の多く/*大勢/*たくさんは男性です。

(* denotes incorrect usage)

So in a nice long winded half incorrect answer, we can see that 多い is not strictly used for countable objects, nor can たくさん simply be swapped with 多い・多く in any situation. Just follow the simple grammar rules, now knowing these extra couple of things, and you should have no problem with using them, I think.

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Would you elaborate on how you found 今日は水が多いですね does not make sense? Is it from your experience or your reading? I found the sentence in Asahi Shinbun website, so even though it's quoting someone's spoken statement, there must be a reason why it made it to the published page. –  Lukman Jun 9 '11 at 6:44
    
It doesn't make sense when you talk about rain. (Gerard surely thought you were talking about rain.) The Asahi article talks about water in a dam. In this case "there's a lot of water" makes sense. –  repecmps Jun 9 '11 at 7:16
    
Thats fair, Lukman. I just asked a colleague (Japanese) and he said it doesnt make sense. I guess with the full context it does. I'll have to repost when my colleague comes back because I can't think of why not now. –  Gerard Sexton Jun 9 '11 at 8:29
    
btw in example 8. you used 今年はたくさん/*多く/*大勢雪が降った。 .. i'd thought that 大勢 is only used with humans, or is it that it's usually used with humans? –  Pacerier Jun 24 '11 at 11:50
    
sry just another quick question, when you say 大勢雪 do you mean that the の particle in between 大勢 and 雪 is optional? –  Pacerier Jun 24 '11 at 11:51

Here's a quick translation of the page that repecmps linked to

多い is an adjective, while たくさん is a noun which is also used as an adverb, but there are differences in their uses. There are also some differences in their meaning. 多い and たくさん both count things, number of times, quantities, etc but for strictly measuring things, 多い is used.

今年の交通事故者数は昨年より100名多い。 - Compared to last year there were 100 more traffic accidents.
今年の交通事故者数は昨年より100名たくさんいる - This sentence is incorrect.

今日の練習はいつもより3回多い We did 3 times more practice than usual today.
今日の練習はいつもより3回たくさんやった - This sentence is incorrect

While you can understand the meaning of the incorrect sentences, they sound like a child said them.

In the following examples, you can use either:

その牧場には虫が多い
その牧場には虫がたくさんいる
There are many insects in that farm

夏はかく汗の量が多い
夏は汗をたくさんかく
In summer, you sweat a lot.

The following are special cases where you can only use one or the other.

300ccは多いよ - 300cc is too much
カレーライスはもうたくさんだ - I've eaten enough curry (I can't eat any more).

You can see here that 多い is used with measurements while たくさん is used with emotions.

[If you spot any mistakes in this translation, feel free to edit this answer]

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regarding "多い is used with measurements", is this usage wrong then? "悩むことは多い" @ twitter.com/#!/Nshatner/status/45894483656708096 –  Lukman Jun 9 '11 at 9:34
    
I don't think that's wrong. You can say たくさん悩みがある too. He seemed to be saying you can only use 多い (not たくさん) when measuring specific things. For example 50円多いですよ (It's 50 yen too much, you're 50 yen over). 50円たくさんですよ doesn't make sense, and 50円はたくさんですよ changes the meaning to something like "50 yen is enough/too much". –  nevan king Jun 9 '11 at 9:51
    
If 300ccは多いよ translates to 300cc is too much, then how will 300ccは多すぎよ look like? –  Pacerier Jun 24 '11 at 11:55
    
btw is mixing たくさん with すぎる possible? as such: カレーライスはもうたくさんすぎだ –  Pacerier Jun 24 '11 at 11:56

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