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Too Much – or Not Enough? How To Use These Common Phrases

Image representing two people learning about what the boss says in English and what they really mean

“Too much” and “not enough” are both very common phrases you’ll come across in English all the time. So what do they mean, and how are they used?

Both of them are used to talk about the quantity of something – it could be something tangible, like the number of books on a shelf, or it could be something intangible, like the feeling of love for a person.

Let’s take a closer look at what they mean, and how you can use them.

Too and too much

While both “too much” and “not enough” are used to describe quantities of something, they are only used to describe extremities at either end.

“Too much” means that there is an excess of something. “Too” is used to describe that the adjective or adverb being used is in an excessive or extreme state, while “much” describes the fact that this phrase describes the quantity of something.

Let’s take a look at some examples!

“There’s too much water in the bucket, its going to overflow.”

“She coddled him too much – now he’s scared to go out by himself.”

“Too” can also be used with other adjectives to describe the fact that the subject is in excess of it – to use it, you simple add “too” before the adjective.

“Don’t run too fast – you might fall over!”

“I am too young to retire right now.”

Enough and not enough

When something is “enough” it means that it is at a satisfactory level or quantity.

The phrase “not enough” is obviously a negative form of that – and it shows that things are not satisfactory!

For example:

“There is not enough bread for the entire group to eat.”

It is usually used to indicate that the level is less than satisfactory – it would not be used if it was in excess. In this case, you could use “too much”. Another way of saying “not enough” is by using “too little”.

For example:

“There is too little peace in the world.”

When not to use “too much”

You can use “enough” and “not enough” with any kind of noun – both countable nouns and uncountable nouns.

For example:

“We had enough sleep last night.”  ‘Sleep’ is an uncountable noun.

“They don’t have enough books.” ‘Book’ is a countable noun.

In the case of “much” and “too much” however, you can only use these phrases with uncountable nouns. For countable nouns, you would use a variation: “too many” or “too few” instead.

For example:

“There are too many cars on the roads these days.”

“There are too few students learning technical skills.”

Your turn

Learning to describe quantities and using ‘too’ and ‘not enough’ is a really essential part of your journey in the English language – so make sure that you get lots of practice is using these! Try to work in your practice into your day to day activities – see when things are “too much” or “not enough” for you – and write it down!