If you were given the English sentence "The girl works a lot" to translate into Esperanto, why would you imagine that "ne", meaning "no" or "not" would work?
Ah—there's one exercise that gives no English at all, but asks you to fill in the blank from a multiple-choice, like: "La knabino laboras ___" (multe/ne/kaj). That's the one I was doing! (Unless it actually did give the English and I just didn't see it, which would be embarrassing…)
That might explain it. I must say I have not seen a multiple choice question which doesn't give, in the other language, the meaning they are looking for.
But "much" does mean the same as "a lot". "Because of the rain, we couldn't spend much of the day outside." and "Did you see much of your cousin?" mean the same as "Because of the rain, we couldn't spend a lot of the day outside." and "Did you see a lot of your cousin?" I've looked up "much"as an adverb in several English-Esperanto dictionaries, and they all give "multe" as the Esperanto translation.
Of course "much" is less than "very much", just as in Esperanto, "multe" is less than "tre multe".
You are right. "very much" would be "tre multe", but "much" is usually used with at least one more word if only the word "of". "How much do you work?" would not be answered with "I work much." We would need to say how much: "so much", "very much" , "too much", "not so much", "much of the time", "much of the week" or "much of the day". I don't think that it is technically wrong, but that use of much is just lacking these days. You can use it in questions and negatives. "Do you go out much?" "Not much.", but the positive answer would be "I do." not "I go out much." Perhaps you could get away with "I do go out much." There is even a previous meaning of "much" for "many" which is obsolete. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/much
Perhaps part of the problem is that it is used as an adverb or an adjective as well as a pronoun. "He is much better." (adverb) , "He doesn't have much money." (adjective) No, that still doesn't explain why we use it in the negative, but find it odd in the positive.
You could also say "Nothing much happened." which is an idiom now and because of that idiom I could even understand someone saying "Much happened." stressing the word "much" to mean "a lot", but there it is used as a pronoun.
Perhaps it is because it has other meanings: "He has as much as I do." No, other words have many meanings. Why should a word become less used by itself for just one meaning? It is not used by itself here either: "as much".
Then there is the famous Shakespeare quote: "Much ado about nothing." (adjective) which perhaps shows that it was once used quite a bit more often.
I suppose "The girl works much." could perhaps be seen in a poem.
Of course, we need to keep in mind that "multe" is only used as an adverb.
Thanks for taking the time to reply. I think this might be another example of the English language varying around the world.
Yes, almost any word order is fine ("Laboras la knabino multe", "Multe la knabino laboras", "Multe laboras la knabino", for instance). I said "almost any", because you shouldn't separate "La" from "knabino" - "La laboras multe knabino" would not be right!!
You are right it is informal, but it is listed in the American dictionary. You could try reporting it. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lots
I personally don't like to use it, but I have heard people use it.
I wonder why "a lot" is so popular here?
You need to scroll down past the noun to "a lot". http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lot
I am surprised that you have learned English at least well enough to be able to write that message, but you say that Esperanto, which has none of the irregularities that English has, is too difficult for you. Is there anything that you think particularly makes Esperanto difficult for you?