Hey there! This is TOP episode 87: Too Few, Too Little

My name’s Ola and I am an English teacher. My goal is to help you start speaking English with confidence and get rid of speaking barriers. It’s time you started speaking English fearlessly! I’ve been there. I was unable to speak English for many reasons that now I call a language blockade. Today I teach people like you how to speak English with confidence. Go to my website for full transcripts and worksheets to each episode. Happy learning! 

Hello to you! Thank you for playing this episode. I know you are interested in this bit of grammar since you’ve chosen it. Today it is going to be quick, so I have a short lesson for you. But you know me, you know how I hate overcomplicating grammar. I like to keep it short and sweet. I like to teach my students one tiny bit of grammar and then seeing them using it, you know? So that it’s fairly easy to implement. On top of that, I want to make sure it’s all clear.  Gramma is not and has never been the clue. The clue, the essence is communication, so never lose that from your sight! Learn grammar, but mindfully ok? 

Don’t get overwhelmed. Don’t challenge yourself with revising all tenses in one day or learning everything about countable and uncountable nouns in one session. Before I jump into the theory please make sure you stay with me till the practical part of this show that is you repeating sentences out loud. There’s going to be 15 sentences to listen, retain and repeat. 

This episode could have been titled too much too many, but I know from my own experience and from my lessons that most students feel this difference. Of course, mistakes are inevitable, but if I tell you too many is for countable nouns and too much is for uncountable nouns, well, it rings a bell. Right? You’ve heard that before, you know what to fix. Too many people, too many problems, too many oranges, too many options, too many opportunities, too many eggs, too many items, too many bones. A side note, if you forgive me,  ‘bones’ is one of my favourite English words, no kidding. The meaning of the word is irrelevant, I just like the sound of this word. Another word I love hearing is ‘budget’. Especially when it’s sometimes pronounced with the /u/ sound instead of the /a/ sound. Budget. I love it. Oh, do you have your favourite words in English? For me, it’s ‘bones’ and ‘budget’. 

Let me know, share your favourite words in the comments!  Ok, let’s get back to grammar. Too much is used with uncountable nouns: too much time, too much money, too much noise, too much milk, too much attention, too much cheese, too much love.

Our problem with ‘too much and ‘too many’ stems from the fact that both phrases are translated into ‘za dużo’ in Polish. Too many books and too much history is translated into ‘za dużo’. Too much and to many are used in a situation when you have more of something than you need or more than you want. Basically you are not satisfied with that. 

What if it’s the opposite? What if you have less than you want or less than you need? The opposite of too much is too little. I have too little time, I have too little water, I have too little energy. I’m sure you’ve noticed time, water, energy are all uncountable nouns. If you haven’t got enough of something uncountable you can say it in two ways. The first: there isn’t enough cake, and the second: There is too little cake. There wasn’t enough time? There was too little time. It’s the same, right? 

I think we tend to avoid ‘too little’ in favour of  ‘not enough’. ‘Not enough’ seems easier, and it is easier, because it can be also used with countable nouns. Let’s look at countable nouns now.

If you haven’t got enough oranges you can say I have too few oranges. Too few. Too few people, too few opinions, too few pens, too few apples, too few shirts. See, so too few is the equivalent of too many. Ok? It’s the opposite in other words. 

We struggle a bit with too little and too few because in Polish we only use one expression, that is: ‘za mało’. That works for both, countable and for uncountable nouns. 

One more piece of advice. Don’t think that using ‘not enough’ is some kind of easy way out of the problem. There’s no problem. Let’s establish that. All you want to do is communicate. The exact same message is conveyed with both:

I don’t have enough money.

I have too little money.

I don’t have enough notebooks.

I have too few notebooks. 

In fact the use of ‘not enough’ among native speakers is more common than ‘too little’ or ‘too few’. So chillax! 

Time for a practical part of the episode, when you speak English. Out loud.  Please listen and repeat out loud. 

There wasn’t enough time to plan it properly.

The dentist had too many patients in his office yesterday.

She had too many things to do.

There’s too much sugar in my coffee.

There’s too little time to finish the project.

There was too little room for everyone.

I have too few glasses to invite so many people.

The football team always loses, because it has too few good players.

People feel unsafe, because there are too few policemen in the streets.

 There is too much noise in this class.

 Too much force will twist the key.

The modern-day diet has too little fiber in it.

Too many cooks spoil the broth.

The article makes too many false presumptions.

 In fact, too few words are far preferable to too many.

We can’t ski because there’s too little snow.

That was amazing! I hope you were focused and present and mindful about that part because those sentences will come back to you. Download the worksheet and do your homework. The task is to translate the sentences from Polish to English. If you are new here please go to episode 76 and learn how to study English with this podcast if you have 10 minutes a day only. The worksheet awaits you in your inbox, mark it as important so that they don;t end up in your spam folder. If you are not a member of TOPeople and you have not received any of my emails join us now. It’s free! The easiest way to become a member is to download the worksheet from teacherola.com/87. Teacherola.com/87. You can also subscribe at teacherla.com/newsletter. 

Thank you for listening, and please share this episode with just one person. Your friend, your family member. Let’s spread the message. No matter how enormous your language blockade is, no matter how big trauma you carry from school, how teachers failed you or how shy or introverted you are, you can start speaking English fearlessly.

Subscribe to this podcast if you haven’t yet, please rate it in iTunes if you liked it. I’ll see you here next Wednesday. We will be talking about letting go. Yes, letting go. What do you mean Ola? Well, you need to see for yourself, so tune in next Wednesday. Till then, happy learning. Take care! Stay fearless and say it out loud. Bye!