ELL Guide

A guide for ELL (English Language Learners) at the University of Maine at Augusta

Too Much/Too Many/A Lot (Of)

Too much and too many are adverbial phrases that are often confused with the adverbial or noun phrase a lot (which is often followed by the word of).  A lot often means many, but unlike too many or too much, which are adverbial phrases with negative connotations, a lot is neutral and can be used for good things, bad things, or neutral things (or things where their quality is unknown).  

When people are learning English, they often use too much or too many when they should instead be using a lot.  

In order to explore how too much and too many are different from a lot, we should first explore the difference between too much and too many.  

Too much is used for uncountable nouns and too many is used for countable nouns.   

Here are some examples of too much and too many in sentences.  

I am taking TOO MANY classes.  Classes are countable.  

I have TOO MUCH work to do.  Work is uncountable.  

I am washing TOO MANY dishes because my roommates never wash them.  Dishes are countable.  

I am washing dishes TOO MUCH.  The act of washing dishes is uncountable.  

I ate out TOO MANY times last semester.  The amount of times eating out is countable.   

I ate out TOO MUCH last semester.  The act of eating out is now not countable because there is not the word times in this example to count.  

I drink TOO MANY cups of coffee in a day.  The cups of coffee someone drinks is countable.  

I drink TOO MUCH coffee a day.  Coffee itself is not countable.  

I drank TOO MANY coffees today.  Coffees are countable because they are short for cups of coffee.  

I studied for TOO MANY hours last night and did not get enough sleep; now I have no energy for the test.  Hours are countable.  

I studied TOO MUCH last night and did not get enough sleep; now I have no energy for the test.  Studying is not countable unless there is something countable, like a unit of time (such as hours in the previous example), to attach it to.  

I ate TOO MANY slices of pizza and now I am tired.  Slices are countable.   

I ate TOO MUCH pizza and now I am tired.  Pizza is not countable unless it is attached to a countable unit, like slices in the previous example.  

I watched TOO MANY hours of my favorite series on Netflix and now I do not have enough time to properly study for the exam.  Hours are countable.  

I watched TOO MUCH Netflix and now I do not have enough time to properly study for the exam.  Watching Netflix is not countable unless it is attached to a countable unit, such as hours in the previous example.   

 

 

Too Much/Too Many Quiz  

Fill in the blanks with either too much or too many.  

  1. I read that if you cook at home you are likely to eat healthier than if you eat out ______________.   

  2. The reasoning behind that most food at restaurants has ______________ calories.  

  3. They say, “you can’t have ______________  of a good thing,” but I don’t know if that is true.  

  4. My roommate spends ____________ time talking about writing and not enough time actually writing.  

  5. If you counted the actual number of hours he talked  about writing, I do not know exactly how many hours it would be, but it would definitely be ___________  hours.  

  6. I ate __________ ice cream with my friends at movie night and now I have a stomach ache.  

  7. I ate ___________  scoops of ice cream with my friends at movie night and now I have a stomach ache.  

  8. I spend ____________ of my time riding the bus every day because I live too far from campus.  

  9. I told my roommate at the beginning of the semester that she could take some of my food, but now she takes ____________.  

       10.  The test had _____________________ questions and not enough time to sufficiently answer all of them.  

 

Too Much/Too Many Quiz Answers 

1.  Too much  2.  Too many  3.  Too much  4. Too much  5. Too many 6. Too much 7.  Too many  8.  Too much  9. Too much  10.  Too many 

Too Much/Too Many vs. A Lot 

The difference between too much or too many and a lot is that too much and too many have negative connotations whereas a lot is neutral.  

Here are some examples of these phrases used properly in sentences.   

I have A LOT OF friends.   This is generally viewed as positive and since a lot of is used with positive, negative, or neutral things.  

I have TOO MANY negative coworkers who always like to gossip.  Gossiping coworkers is a negative thing and too many is used with negative things. 

I have A LOT OF negative coworkers who always like to gossip.   Gossiping coworkers is a negative thing and a lot of can be used with negative things.. 

I have A LOT OF books to read.  This could be negative, positive, or neutral; we do not know.  

I have TOO MANY books to read.  Too many indicates that this is negative.  

I have TOO MUCH reading to do.  Too much indicates this is negative.   

I slept A LOT and now I feel rested.  A lot can be used for good or bad things; the second independent clause in the sentence--now I feel rested--tells us that it is positive in this case.  

I slept TOO MUCH and now I feel overtired.  Too much indicates that this is negative, which is reinforced by the second independent clause in the sentence that tells us that so much sleep made the speaker "overtired."  

I slept TOO MUCH and now I do not have enough time to study before the exam today.  Too much is used because the large amount of sleep caused a negative outcome.  

I spent A LOT OF time in the library studying for the exam and so I feel really prepared and confident.  A lot of can be positive, negative, and neutral.  In this case we know it is positive because of the context of the sentence tells us it resulted in the speaker feeling "really prepared and confident." 

Quiz #2 -- Positive or Negative?  

Circle too much/too many, or a lot/a lot of.  Play special attention to if the context of the sentence is positive, negative, neutral, or unknown.  

  1. I have TOO MANY/A LOT OF people telling me what to do and I do not like it.  

  2. I have TOO MANY/A LOT OF people supporting me right now and it is very helpful.  

  3. TOO MUCH/A LOT OF people are helping me move and it is great.  

  4. I spent A LOT OF /TOO MUCH time at the gym and I feel great.  

  5. I spent A LOT/TOO MUCH time at the gym; I think I overdid it and got injured  as a result.

  6. There are TOO MANY/A LOT OF cooks in the kitchen and it is causing there to be mistakes with this project.  

  7. I have A LOT OF/TOO MANY channels to choose from and I cannot make a decision.  

  8. I have A LOT OF/TOO MANY channels to choose from and that is great.  

  9. You can’t have TOO MANY/A LOT OF friends.  

  10. I have  made A LOT OF/TOO MANY friends at college and it is really great.  

 

Quiz #2 -- Positive or Negative? Answers  

  1.  Either is correct because it is negative (too many would indicate it is negative earlier in the sentence than a lot of, which we learn is negative at the end of the sentence).  

  2. A LOT OF (because it is positive) 

  3. A LOT OF (because it is positive) 

  4. A LOT OF (because it is positive) 

  5.  Either is correct because it is negative (too many would indicate it is negative earlier in the sentence than a lot of, which we learn is negative at the end of the sentence). 

  6. While it is negative and that would normally mean either are correct (and it could be), it probably should be too many because “too many cooks in the kitchen” is an idiom meaning that there are too many people involved in the situation and because we learn later in the sentence that it is not likely literally about a kitchen, this is the idiom we are likely looking for.  

  7.  Either is correct because it is negative (too many would indicate it is negative earlier in the sentence than a lot of, which we learn is negative at the end of the sentence). 

  8. A LOT OF (because it is positive) 

  9. TOO MANY because the speaker is indicating that friends are positive and as such they cannot be associated with something negative, which “too many” would do.  As such, you cannot say, according to the speaker, that you have TOO MANY friends.  

  10. A LOT OF (because it is positive)

Putting it all together.  So in deciding between too much, too many, and a lot of, we must decide if the we are dealing with a positive or negative situation; the the situation is negative, we must determine if it is countable or uncountable.  

Here are some more helpful examples of these phrases in action: 

I have TOO MANY bills to pay.  Bills are countable and the context is negative.  

I owe TOO MUCH money.  Money is not countable in this case because there is not any countable unit attached; the context is negative.  

I earn A LOT OF money.  This is likely positive.  

I have A LOT OF homework, but it is not TOO MUCH because I really enjoy the class and the work.  The first part about homework is neutral, which we learn is NOT negative in the second independent clause because "it is NOT too much."  

I am scheduled to work A LOT OF hours this week–but not TOO MANY–you can never schedule me for TOO MANY hours because I really enjoy working (or, actually, the paycheck that results from working A LOT OF hours).  We learn that the many hours the speaker is working--and is probably actually positive--from the context.  

I am feeling overwhelmed because I am taking TOO MANY classes this semester.  I might have to drop one.  Too many is negative and classes are countable.  

There are not A LOT OF people on campus because so many students are taking classes online.  In this context, the amount of people on campus is neutral or unknown.  

There has been A LOT OF snow this winter.  In this context, the amount of snow in Maine is neutral or unknown.  

I drank TOO MUCH soda because I bought TOO MANY cans of soda and when I have them in the refrigerator I tend to drink them.  The context is negative.  Soda is noncountable, but cans of soda is countable.  

I drink A LOT OF caffeine, TOO MUCH in fact.  I am trying to replace my caffeine with A LOT OF exercise to give me the energy I need.  Caffeine starts as neutral until the speaker transitions it to negative.  It is not countable because there is no countable item attached to it here.  The speaker is trying to replace the negative caffeine with something apparently positive--exercise.   

When I have A LOT OF time on my hands, I tend to think TOO MUCH and overanalyze things.  Free time starts as neutral in the introductory clause until it transitions into negative in the independent clause that follows.  

I have A LOT OF time between my classes, but it is not TOO MUCH time because I use it to study or finish my homework.  The time between classes starts out as neutral in the first independent clause and then is clarified as not negative in the second independent clause.  

I have A LOT OF goals and dreams, but you cannot have TOO MANY, in my opinion, because even if you do not accomplish all of them, you will at least accomplish some and that is still good.  The goals and dreams begin as probably positive and then clarified as definitely not negative later in the sentence.  

My instructor gives TOO MANY assignments each week and so it is easy for me to get confused about what I should be focusing on.  Too many is negative and assignments are countable.  

I have A LOT on my plate this year, but it is not TOO MUCH for me to handle.  I can do it.   A lot starts off as neutral and possibly negative because of the initial context, but is later clarified as not being negative.  What is on the speaker's plate is not countable because there is no countable item attached.  

I can’t watch TOO MANY episodes of my favorite show; it is impossible because the show is so good!  The speaker is adamant that watching numerous episodes of their favorite show is not negative (can't negates the negativity of too many).  Episodes are countable.  

A LOT OF times I do not even read everything I am assigned for the week, but please do not tell my instructor!   The fact the speaker often does not read all the assignments for the week is neutral or unknown in quality.  

Quiz #3--Putting It All Together  

Fill in the blank with too much, too many, or a lot.  

  1. My roommate says I put __________  seasoning on the chicken and it hides the taste of chicken, but I think it needs ____________ of seasoning because the meat is not very good and so the taste needs to be hidden.  

  2. My roommate does not cook _____________  anyway, so I do not really pay much attention to what she tells me in that regard.  

  3. Besides, food never tastes good when everybody is putting in their opinion or, as they say, “there are _________________  cooks in the kitchen.”  

  4. I don’t watch ____________  of movies, but when I do, I like to eat __________________ of popcorn.  

  5. I don’t watch ____________  movies either.   I like popcorn too, but not when they put ___________ butter or salt on it.  

  6. My best friend talks often.  Some people are annoyed by him and say he talks ___________.  But I am his best friend and so I just say he talks _________________.  

  7. American football has ____________ of rules, ____________ for me to understand what is going on in the game.  

  8. There are _______________  stoppages in American football for my liking, which is just one of many reasons that I prefer soccer.  

  9. My instructor does not give _______________  assignments, but the ones she gives are very long and take up ___________________ time.   

  10. When I complain to my parents on the phone that I am spending ________________  time studying, they tell me that is why I am in college.  That’s easy for them to say when they have _________________ of free time to do whatever they want.  

Quiz #3--Putting It All Together Answers 

 

  1.  too much/a Lot  2.  a lot  3.  too many  4.  a lot/a lot  5.  too many/ too much  6. too much/ a lot  7.  a lot/too many 8.  too many    9.  too many/too much  10. too much/ a lot

Too Much/Too Many & A Lot exercise  

 

Write three sentences: one using too much, one using too many, and one using a lot.  

 

1.__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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2.__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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3.__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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