What is the difference between to much and too much?
If you spend enough time scrolling through social media, you’re bound to encounter incorrect use of phrases like “too much” and “to much” (yes, it’s really that common).
One of the biggest reasons people struggle with “too much” and “to much” is that the phrases sound exactly the same (homophones). “Too much” contains the adverb “too,” while “to much” begins with “to” (a preposition and infinitive marker).
Both phrases also contain “much,” a word we use as an adverb, determiner, pronoun, and more to describe ‘a large or great amount’ of something (this should ring a bell from “amount vs. number”).
Together, both phrases sound like “two much” (another common mistake), but in the end, they have different meanings and usage:
- “Too much” is an actual English phrase that means “excessively” or “excessive.”
- “To much” is either a spelling error or part of a random clause.
- “They’ve had too much to drink.” (adverb phrase)
- “They drink too much.” (adjective phrase)
- “The draft didn’t amount to much for the Texas team.” (random clause)
- “They’ve had to much to drink.”
- “They drink to much.”
- “The draft didn’t amount too much for the Texas team.”
What does too much mean?
“Too much” is an adverb phrase that means ‘excessively,’ but it’s also an adjective phrase that describes something as ‘excessive’ (whether it’s ‘intolerable’ or ‘exciting’).
- “But is it too much to ask Davis to handle things until James gets back?” — Los Angeles Times
- “As to too much talking, teachers might welcome an unimpeachable reason to tell pupils to keep quiet in class.” — The Economist
- “For some, that level of excitement might be too much to handle, but for Graham, it’s all part of becoming a supermodel…” — Vogue
- “Policymakers have been quite emphatic that if inflation picks up too much, they have the ability to get it under control.” — Vox
- “Moms and dads are decking out their young children in rare Nikes and Instagram-ready designer hoodies, but is it too much fashion, too soon?” — The Wall Street Journal
What does to much mean?
“To much” is not a phrase. It’s either a misspelling of “too much” or a coincidental pairing in a sentence clause.
- “In Houston, Mr. Kasin improved on his Boston time by about 18 minutes, an improvement owing to much more than a pair of shoes.” — The New York Times
- “All this might be expensive, but the costs of repairs after the fact can amount to much more.” — Myrtle Beach Sun News
How to use “too much” vs. “to much” in a sentence?
Since “too much” includes the word “much,” it needs to describe or reference a noncount noun (otherwise known as “mass nouns” or “uncountable nouns”).
Wait, what are noncount nouns?
Noncount nouns are singular nouns with uncountable quantities, such as:
- “You don’t want to drink too much water.”
- “We made too much soup.”
- “Don’t add too much salt to the dough.”
- “There’s too much snow in the driveway.”
Outside of referencing noncount nouns (as the direct object), we can use “much” as a determiner, pronoun, or adverb before singular pronouns and prepositions. Let’s look at how this variety plays out in examples with “too much” and “to much.”
Example sentences for “too much”
- “Make sure the plants don’t get too much sunlight.”
- “Everyone knows you can have too much of a good thing.”
- “Is it too much to ask that everybody can get along for one hour?”
- “Everybody wants to be known for doing something great, but is it too much?”
Example sentences for “to much”
- “We opened the location to much success and delight.” (noun)
- “Twitter’s online community has led to much hostility amongst locals.” (noun)
- “The newsletter plans to speak to much of the community’s injustices.” (adj.)
- “This rare plant is native to much of Central America.” (adj.)
- “Clearly, my draft did not amount to much.” (pronoun)
Dealing with count nouns? Use “too many” or “to many”
Count nouns or “countable nouns” are singular or plural nouns that reference a number or quantity of separable things. Common examples of countable nouns include:
As we now know, we cannot pair “too much” or “to much” with countable nouns. We can, however, substitute these phrases with “too many” or “to many.” Unlike the word “much,” “many” can describe any ‘large number, extent, or degree’ of something.
- “I think I ate too many bananas.”
- “There are too many vegetables in this shepherd’s pie.”
- “This is what happens when you eat too many cookies.”
- “You can never have too many plants.”
Of course, some nouns are both countable and uncountable, and an easy example involves the words “chocolate” and “chocolates.” If we use the noun “chocolate” to describe individual pieces of chocolate, it’s a countable noun. But if we use the noun to describe general “chocolate” (not countable pieces), it’s a noncount noun.
To illustrate, let’s compare a few correct and incorrect examples:
Correct: “There are too many chocolate pieces to choose from.”
Incorrect: “There are too much chocolate pieces to choose from.”
Correct: “There are too many chocolates to choose from.”
Incorrect: “There are too much chocolates to choose from.”
When “chocolate” or “chocolates” represent singular or plural nouns, they are countable. Therefore, we can pair them with the word “many.”
Correct: “I hope the cake doesn’t have too much chocolate.”
Incorrect: “I hope the cake doesn’t have too much chocolates.”
Incorrect: “I hope the cake doesn’t have too many chocolate.”
The only time we can pair the word “chocolate” with “much” is when it functions as an uncountable noun.
How to remember the difference between too much and to much?
An easy to way to tell if you’re using “too much” or “to much” correctly is to replace either phrase with “a lot of,” “lots of,” “excessive,” or “excessively.”
Both “a lot of” and “lots of” describe ‘a large number or quantity of something,’ so they’re an easy replacement for “too much” (or even “too many”).
Meanwhile, the adverb “excessively” and adjective “excessive” are both synonyms of “too much,” so if all else fails, it’s worth double-checking to see if the adverb or adjective works instead. Let’s practice with the following exercise:
Original sentence: “I hope I didn’t eat too much chocolate.”
- “I hope I didn’t eat a lot of chocolate.” (correct)
- “I hope I didn’t eat lots of chocolate.” (correct)
- “I hope I didn’t eat excessively chocolate.” (incorrect)
- “I hope I didn’t eat excessive chocolate.” (correct)
Since three out of four substitutions check out, we can tell that we’re using the correct form of “too much” for this sentence. Let’s try with a less obvious example.
Original sentence: “Students can buy Bitcoin thanks to much lower markets.”
- “Students can buy Bitcoin thanks a lot of lower markets.” (incorrect)
- “Students can buy Bitcoin thanks lots of lower markets.” (incorrect)
- “Students can buy Bitcoin thanks excessively lower markets.” (incorrect)
- “Students can buy Bitcoin thanks excessive lower markets.” (incorrect)
When neither substitute seems to work, you’re more than likely using the correct form of “to” with “much.” But for the record: if we had kept the preposition “to” in the sentences above, most of them would have been grammatically correct (albeit horribly written).
Additional reading for to much vs. too much
If you enjoyed learning the difference between “to much” and “too much,” check out the following lessons on The Word Counter (improved vocabulary guaranteed).
- Alright vs. all right?
- “Beck and call” or “beckon call”?
- Cannot vs. can not?
- Incase or in case?
- Into vs. in to?
You don’t have to be a native speaker to master “to much” vs. “too much.” See how much you’ve learned with a quick grammar quiz.
- True or false: “to much” shares a similar meaning with “too much”?
- To check for correct usage, we can replace “too much” with ___________.
a. Excessive (adj)
b. Excessively (adv)
c. A lot of (adv phrase)
d. All of the above
- Which of the following words cannot pair with the word “much”?
b. Personal experience
- Which of the following words cannot pair with the word “many”?
- “Do Facebook and Google invade your privacy ___________ much?”
c. A lot
- “We shouldn’t discard ___________ produce.”
a. Too many
b. To many
c. Too much
d. To much
- “___________ of the best answers came from Tony.”
b. A lot of
d. B and C
- “Improving ventilation will help curb SARS-CoV-2.” The Economist, economist.com, 29 May 2021.
- Gallagher, J. “Why Parents Are Dressing Their Kids Like Budding Sneakerheads.” The Wall Street Journal, wsj.com, 30 Apr 2020.
- Karacostas, C. “Hurricane season starts June 1. Here’s what South Carolinians need to do to prepare.” Myrtle Beach Sun News, myrtlebeachonline.com, 31 May 2021.
- “Many.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2021.
- “Much.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th ed., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2021.
- “Much.” MacMillan Dictionary, Macmillan Education Limited, 2021.
- “Much.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2021.
- Okwodu, J. “Nonstop Supermodel! One Weekend With Ashley Graham.” Vogue, vogue.com, 17 June 2016.
- Quealy, K., and J. Katz. “Nike Says Its $250 Running Shoes Will Make You Run Much Faster. What if That’s Actually True?” The New York Times, nytimes.com, 18 Jul 2018.
- Stewart, E. “How much to worry — and not worry — about inflation.” Vox, vox.com, 12 May 2021.
- “Too much.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2021.
- “Too much of a good thing.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2021.