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hěn duō
phr. many, much, a great number of, a lot
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许多 vs 很多:
许多 / 許多 [xu3 duo1] , (adj) much, many, a good deal of, a lot of
很多 / 很多 [hen3 duo1] , (phr) many, much, a great number of, a lot

1. They are considered as different linguistic units. 许多 is an adjective, 很多 is a phrase composed of 很(adv.) and 多 (adj.)

2. Both can be used as attributive modifiers in a sentence and they are interchangeable in most cases:
Examples where they are interchangeable:
很多/许多人喜欢骑自行车去旅游。 [phr] Many people like to ride a bicycle for traveling.
很多/许多学生都住在校外。 [phr] Many students are living outside the school.
我们有很多/许多年没见了。 [phr] We haven't seen each other for many year.
Note that in these examples above, the meaning of 很多 and 许多 are basically the same, with 许多 emphasizing more on the actual number or quantity of something that is countable. 很多 just generally refers to the amount.
Look at this example below:
请小心,路上有很多水。 [phr] Please be careful. There's a lot of water on the road.
It's better to use 很多 because 水 (water) is not something that is countable.

3. Both can be used as complements of degree:
Examples where they are interchangeable:
我发现他瘦了很多/许多。 [phr] I noticed that he had become much thinner.
现在她觉得安顿了很多/许多。 [phr] Now she feels much more settled down.

4. 很多 can be used as complements of quantity, and 许多 cannot.
我吃得很多。 [phr] I eat a lot.
In this sentence, we cannot use 许多 to replace 很多.

5. 很多 can be used as a predicate, while 许多 cannot (predicate is the part of a sentence or clause containing a verb and stating something about the subject).
Example:
这里的人很多。 [phr] There are a lot of people here.
我的朋友很多。 [phr] My friends come in great numbers.
In the sentences above, we cannot use 许多 to replace 很多.
lisaC
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