Yes, that elision is acceptable. :)
For phonetic reasons, when quanto, quanta, quanti, quante are followed by a noun that starts with the same last vowel of the adjective, the latter may be dropped and replaced by an apostrophe (i.e. an elision may occur), although in modern Italian this tends to happen more and more rarely. Only when the matching vowel is "a" it is still common to use an apostrophe, although this is not compulsory:
- quanta acqua è rimasta? = quant'acqua è rimasta? = how much water is left?
- quanta armonia in questo quadro! = quant'armonia in questo quadro = how much harmony in this painting!
In Australian spoken English we can tend to say something like: "Emmich wardajadrink?" Instead of "How much water do you drink" or "How much water did you drink". ...
I wasn't quite aware of it until I did some supervised teaching and the supervisor wrote : "You generally have a beautifully modulated voice but when you asked the class to put their pens down you said 'Woodja poodja pens down please?' "
Because despite its name, the "do" is not doing anything here. :)
English uses "do" to turn statements into questions ("You drink" -> "Do you drink?") or to add emphasis ("You do drink!"). These functions have little or nothing to do with the meaning of "do" as a full verb ("perform [a task]"); they are just the way English does questions and emphasis.
Most other languages do both questions and emphasis differently. A common pattern, that is valid in English but sounds archaic to our ears, is to swap the order of subject and verb: "Drink you?".
In the case of pronoun-dropping languages like most of Romance, there might not be an explicit subject at all, which makes the reversal less apparent. If this were a yes/no question ("Do you drink?"), it could be simply «Bevi?», with only the question mark (or vocal inflection) distinguishing it from the statement "You drink." But if you add an explicit pronoun, the question would be «Bevi tu?» and the statement «Tu bevi.»
But it's not a yes/no question; it has a question word in it, which is enough to establish its questionhood without any order reversal. So if the subject were explicit it could go either before or after the verb: «Quanta acqua bevi tu?» or «Quanta acqua tu bevi?». Although I think «bevi tu» would be more common.
When the thing you are counting is feminine instead of masculine.
Quanti uomini = how many men
Quante donne = how many women
Use the singular forms when you're talking about something that you measure instead of counting:
Quanto spazio = how much space
Quanta acqua = how much water
That would be "Quanta acqua hai bevuto?" If you translate that back literally word for word, you get "How much water have you drunk?", but Italian generally uses the present perfect ("have done") where English uses the simple past ("did").
The literal translation of "How much water did you drink?" would be "Quanta acqua bevesti?", but while folks from some parts of southern Italy might use that the way we do in English, for most Italians that tense (called the "passato remoto", "remote past") is reserved for something that happened long ago.
Sort of. You're right that the <a> at the end of <Quanta> disappears into the one at the start of <acqua>, and that the <e> in "bevi" sounds more like the English "long A" in <baby> than our "short E" in <beverage>. But the <v> in "bevi" is still a /v/, just like English <v>, and not like, say, Spanish <b>/<v>.
So the only difference between "many" and "much" is plural vs singular. In English, you use "how many" with plural nouns - how many rocks, how many grains of sand - and "how much" with singular nouns - how much rock, how much sand.
In Italian, there is only one word for both "how many" and "how much": "quanto". But it takes the same m/f, sing/pl endings as a typical Italian adjective, and when it's singular we translate it as "much" and when it's plural as "many".
Those endings are these: -o is masculine singular, -i is masculine plural, -a is feminine singular, and -e is feminine plural.