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When using "too much", it is put after the verb & before the uncountable noun e.g. I drink too much coffee.

However, this sounds strange in the sentence: I use too much social media. Instead I use social media too much sounds more natural.

Can anyone explain why this one doesn't fit the rule? So far it seems that it only happens with the verb use. (Another e.g. would be I use my phone too much).

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    Use X too much means do the activity too much. Use too much X means that X is a quantity you are using or depleting at an unsustainable or dangerous rate. If you think of social media as a commodity, then the second may sound natural to you. Nov 2, 2023 at 16:18
  • "I use too much social media" could intend for the adverbial phrase "too much" to modify the verb "use". But that form would normally set off the phrase with commas, as with "I watch, too often, sports events". Without the commas, the "too much" phrase naturally appears to be an adjectival phrase modifying "social media". And this sounds wrong, because social media are discrete (countable) objects, so not modifiable by "much" — and in any case that is not the presumably intended meaning.
    – Daniel Asimov
    Nov 2, 2023 at 18:09
  • (continued): Since the adverb "much" normally comes after the verb it modifies, "I watch social media too much" seems to have exactly the intended meaning, with "too much" modifying the verb phrase "I watch social media". (In short, I am in complete agreement with the excellent answer by Edwin Ashworth.)
    – Daniel Asimov
    Nov 2, 2023 at 18:09

2 Answers 2

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  • In I drink too much coffee,'too much' is a compound quantifier (compare the single-word quantifiers 'insufficient', 'sufficient', and 'excess'). The noun is being modified.

  • But in He smokes too much, there is no noun to modify; 'too much' is an intensified adverb, commenting critically on the degree of smoking. Note though that 'He smokes too many cigarettes' is back to the first structure.

..........

The adverbial examples

  • I use social media too much / too often / excessively

work well.

But 'too much social media' does not sit happily; some nouns (including noncount usages) are not always happy with 'too much'.

  • There's too much flu about at the moment seems fine, but
  • ??I've had too much flu sounds unnatural.

This seems fairly idiosyncratic;

  • I've been watching too much television recently

is idiomatic, with 'television' metonymic for 'television broadcasts' / 'televised material' (though 'broadcasts' is count).

I'd say that

  • I've been watching too much sport recently say is fine, while
  • I've been surfing too much internet is very quirky.
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    Just to be picky, I think Americans would say "too much sports".
    – Barmar
    Nov 2, 2023 at 17:18
  • And when you're in an electronics store, you can watch too many televisions. :)
    – Barmar
    Nov 2, 2023 at 17:19
  • Seems close: google ngrams too+much+sport / too+much+sports corpus=en-US-2019. But I've not come across the plural-form noncount usage (ignoring sports cars etc). Nov 2, 2023 at 17:32
  • I wonder how they distinguish AmE from BrE in their corpus. Because I think "sport" vs. "sports" is a useful shibboleth.
    – Barmar
    Nov 2, 2023 at 17:35
  • Yes; "He's good at sports" is normally a plural count usage in the UK: = "He's good at lots of sports". Nov 2, 2023 at 19:49
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Both are fine. "I use social media too much" seems to put the emphasis on how much use is made, that is how long the person spends on social media. Whereas "I use too much social media" shifts the emphasis to the amount of social media, perhaps the number of different platforms, or perhaps the amount of data shared on social media.

Since you would usually be most worried about the time you spend, the first sentence might be preferred. But, to be honest, I don't think there is that much difference in meaning.

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  • The variants aren't always equally idiomatic; 'too much Bluetooth' is almost unknown on the internet. I'd say 'too much social media' is becoming a widely accepted variant (more slowly in the UK than the US). Nov 3, 2023 at 16:17

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