At least in the US, many, maybe most, native English speakers spell "a lot" as one word until taught otherwise. Why is this such a common phenomenon?

There are several pieces of (non-written based) evidence that it should be analyzed as two words, including most significantly that it can be interrupted by "whole," or, less commonly, "great, (n) awful." The same phenomenon doesn't seem to happen for parallel constructions, e.g. nobody seems to analyze "abunch, afew" as single words.

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    It is a life view of language change. BTW, you probably love the alot, see hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.de/2010/04/… Aug 14, 2016 at 12:27
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    A lot has gone farther toward fusion than a bunch. We still use the word bunch, but when was the last time you heard lot used to mean 'a large number' without a in front of it? The same thing happened -- in one direction or another -- to nickname, adder, and orange.
    – jlawler
    Aug 14, 2016 at 13:24
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    Lotta is eye dialect representing the ordinary pronunciation of lot of. The article in a whole lot of is often dropped at the beginning of spoken sentences--Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On wrote Williams and Hall in 1955; I imagine Prof. Lawler will confirm that this is attributable to conversational deletion. Aug 14, 2016 at 21:03
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    "Another" is written together even though we can say "a whole other" or "a whole nother." Aug 15, 2016 at 1:27
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    Here's a relevant question on ELU; I hope the answers are somewhat useful: Why is writing “alot” such a common mistake? Aug 17, 2016 at 22:59

2 Answers 2


The problem starts not with the noun phrase "a lot of ...", but with the adverbial phrase "a lot [of the time]" (meaning 'often'). It is unusual for an adverbial phrase to begin with a determiner (article), so the learner assumes that 'a lot' is one word ('alot'), since the temporal cue 'of the time' is often elided.


'lot' is a common noun and the plural is 'lots' - both are commonly used in auctions, but also to refer to indeterminate quantities of something. Similar to 'a bunch of flowers', 'a gaggle of geese' or 'a cup of tea'. Spelling is arbitrary say the knowing linguists!

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