Can you really have too much cake? Using “too much”, “too many” or “a lot” in English Grammar

Too much Too Many

I often hear English learners misuse the phrases “Too Many” or “Too Much.” As in:

“I have too many family.”

“We have too much food at home.”

“That park is great, they have too many swings and slides!”

Misusing this phrase can drastically change the meaning of your sentence, and may even communicate the opposite of what you wanted, so let’s take a look at why this aspect of English Grammar is important.

English Grammar: Too Many – We use “too many” with count nouns. That is, we use it with words that we could count with numbers. I.e., “Too many books” “Too many bugs” “Too many students.”

English Grammar:  Too Much – We use “too much” with non-count nouns. That is, we use it with words that we can not count with numbers. For example, “Too much coffee” “Too much rain” “Too much water.”

Many English learners that come to Confidence Learning Services understand that much, but here’s where it gets tricky.

We only use “Too Many” or “Too Much” when talking about something in a negative way.

When talking about something in a positive way, we instead use “A lot of” or “Lots of.”

Let’s look at some examples of this English grammar issue.

 English Grammar Knoxville

 English Grammar Knoxville
My mom gave me too much food.

My mom gave me a lot of food.


 English Grammar Knoxville

 English Grammar Knoxville
The library has too many books.

The library has a lot of books.


 English Grammar Knoxville

There are too many people at the beach.

There are a lot of people at the beach.

One serious English Grammar error I often hear is people saying, “There are too many Egyptians in Nashville,” or, “California has too many Korean people.” To an English speaking listener, these statements sound offensive or racist, like the person who is saying them hates Egyptian or Korean people. But often, the speakers themselves are Egyptian or Korean! The sentences they should have used are, “There are lots of Egyptians in Nashville,” or “California has a lot of Korean people.”


And remember, the opposite of this phrase is “Not enough,” and often combined with a version of “do”.


 English Grammar Knoxville  English Grammar Knoxville  English Grammar Knoxville

My mom didn’t give me enough food.

The library doesn’t have enough books.

There aren’t enough people at the beach.

 Want more help with your English grammar? Do you want to learn exactly which errors are holding you back in English? Contact Confidence Learning Services today at 1-865-226-9477 to schedule a free, 20 minute English consultation via Skype. 

Scare, Scary, or Scared? Pronouncing English Word Endings

Pronouncing English

Pronouncing English can be tough. Did you mean to say scare, scary, or scared?





 Pronouncing English  Pronouncing English  Pronouncing English

They are scared.

The bear will scare her. This house is scary.

Adding a “y” to the end of a word changes a noun or verb into an adjective.How you pronounce each one of those words changes the meaning of your sentence dramatically. In pronouncing English, it is important to pronounce the word ending clearly, which is why Confidence Learning Services often focuses on pronunciation even in our standard English courses. Changing the word ending usually changes its meaning.

So in saying “There is a lot of noise downstairs,” noise is a noun. I could switch it out with another noun I’m more familiar with just to check if it still works. If I say, “There is a lot of cake downstairs,” that sentence still works.

I could also say, “It is very noisy downstairs.” Now that I have added the y to the base form, noisy becomes an adjective. But just to double check, I can switch out that word with another adjective I’m more familiar with to see if that sentence still works. If I say, “It is very nice downstairs,” that sentence still works.

I cannot say “There is a lot of noisy downstairs” because that’s an adjective, not a noun. Just like I could not say “There is a lot of nice downstairs.” I also cannot say “It is very noise downstairs” because that is a noun, just like I could not say “It is very cake downstairs.”

Pronouncing English Word Endings in Sentences

Let’s look at those example sentences again:

Correct Double Check WRONG
Noun There is a lot of noise downstairs. There is a lot of cake downstairs. There is a lot of noisy downstairs.
Adjective It is very noisy downstairs. It is very nice downstairs. It is very noise downstairs.


Pronouncing English word endings is just as important as knowing which ones to use. Even if you are thinking of saying the correct sentence, if you don’t pronounce the end clearly, a listener could hear an incorrect statement that doesn’t make sense.

So let’s go over the pronunciation of some commonly confused words. Each word that ends in a “y” should be pronounced with a clear, high, /i/ vowel sound, adding an extra syllable to the base form of the word.

Pronouncing English Word Endings – Examples

If you’re unsure of the pronunciation of a word, click on it to listen to the recording of that word at

Noise Noisy
Fog Foggy
Cloud Cloudy
Gloom Gloomy
Dirt Dirty
Show Showy
Gloss Glossy
Grease Greasy
Snow Snowy
Mood Moody
Ice Icy
Scare Scary
Chew Chewy
Juice Juicy
Rock Rocky
Taste Tasty
Sun Sunny
Fun Funny
Curl Curly
Luck Lucky
Push Pushy
Mess Messy
Bump Bumpy
Salt Salty


Of course, these are not all of the examples from the English language, but it’s a good start.

If you find that people often ask you to repeat yourself, of if you are nervous about talking on the phone or giving presentations in English, you may benefit from English Pronunciation Training/Accent Reduction. Contact us today at 1-865-226-9477 to learn more about getting a free Accent evaluation and get started with your course today.

I don’t have an accent – or do I?

American English Pronunciation Knoxville

Every week at Confidence Learning Services, I interact with people who have various accents, either from different regions of the country, other English speaking countries, or other language backgrounds. And yet it always seems that the majority of people think they do not have an accent.

I’ve encountered one professional from another country with a particularly strong accent that impacts how others understand him. He insisted that he did not have a foreign accent, and that he had even successfully learned to speak with an American Southern accent.

Another speaker with an accent that causes her to regularly repeat herself believes that she does not have an accent, because others from her same language background have told her she does not – meaning at least that her pronunciation is better than theirs.

Then there’s always the story of the old, Southern lady speaking with a strong drawl, expressing how much she wishes she had an accent when meeting someone from another country.

And my husband’s family from Ohio would probably suggest that their entire state is devoid of any accent!

So, do you have an accent? And if so, why can’t you hear it?

Accent Reduction Rule #1 – Everyone has an accent

group rates for spanish course

Yes everyone. Even the President of the United States, the Queen of England, and myself. Everyone speaks with an accent, rules governing their pronunciation of different vowels and consonants. Accents that sound “stronger” or “heavier” than others are simply further from your own pronunciation.When you learn to speak with a “Standard American Accent”, like we teach in our Accent Reduction courses, people will likely understand you better. You’ll repeat yourself less, and you might get people to focus on what you have to say, instead of how you say it. But you will still have an accent – just a Standard American Accent, which will allow you to be better understood throughout North America, but might not improve your communications in other English Speaking Countries.

Accent Reduction Rule #2 – You probably can’t hear your own accent

American English Pronunciation Knoxville

Unless you spend a lot of time thinking about your accent or others’, you probably don’t notice your own accent. Why is that? Surely, we think people like Arnold Schwarzenegger would notice their own accent. But that may not be the case. Often, we don’t notice aspects of ourselves that we live with day in and day out. You may not notice, for instance, how long your hair has grown until someone comments on it, or that you have gained or lost a little weight, or gotten a tan. And you might not even think about your tattoo or nose ring throughout the day, until someone points those things out. That’s because we’re focused on other things – what to eat for dinner, highway traffic, or our big presentation coming up next week.

Accent Reduction Rule #3 – Your brain is working against you

accent reduction brain

The language center of the brain.

When we are infants, we can hear every sound in every human language and differentiate all of them. The difference between the vowels in “beat” and “bit”, the difference between /r/ and /l/, or the difference between the two Arabic “s” sounds are all very clear to us. But as we grow, our brain starts narrowing down to focus only on the sounds that are present and meaningful in the language we are exposed to. Meaning that if you are exposed to Mandarin as an infant, you notice tonal differences, but your brain throws out the difference between English /r/ and /l/ since that’s not useful. If you’re exposed to English, you can hear all 11 vowel sounds, but your brain learns to ignore any difference between different “s” sounds.

By the time we reach puberty, the language section of our brains changes significantly. The languages we were exposed to as children solidify, but those we weren’t exposed to become harder to learn. So if you are reading this as an adult, you likely can’t hear all of the sounds in your new language clearly, meaning you don’t notice when you pronounce “beat” and “bit” the same, because you can’t hear the difference between those vowels, while native speakers can.

Accent Reduction Rule #4 – Your social group matters

learn english in Knoxville

Most of the speakers I encounter who recognize they have an accent and are seeking Accent Reduction services, spend a lot of time among native English speakers. By comparison, they realize their accent is different from their peers, and they may hear comments on their accent, or be asked to repeat themselves regularly. Many who recognize their own accent actually have a relatively “mild” accent, compared to other non-native speakers, but their desire is to learn the Standard American Accent.

Most of the non-native speakers I encounter who do not recognize their own accent, spend more time among non-native English speakers. Compared to other speakers who are still struggling to speak English, they think their English sounds great. In fact, other non-native speakers may ask them for help or compliment them on their English. This gives them confidence in their speech, and when they encounter native speakers who regularly ask them to repeat themselves, they make excuses in their mind for the lack of understanding. “It must have been a poor phone connection, or perhaps they don’t understand my word choice, because I definitely don’t have an accent.” Typically, these speakers have a stronger or heavier accent than those belonging to the first group.

The same rule applies to regional accents as well. Those who spend their time primarily interacting with others from their same accent group or local area are less likely to notice their own accent, but those who travel throughout the country regularly or who have a more diverse group of friends will likely recognize their own accent and others’.

Accent Reduction Rule #5 – You can know for sure!

If you want to know more about your own accent, there’s great news. You can get a detailed, technical analysis of your own accent. At Confidence Learning Services, we provide an assessment that tests your pronunciation of each consonant and vowel sound in the English language as well as factors like stress, linking and intonation. Most people who get the results from this assessment are reassured – they knew there was “something” they couldn’t put their finger on, and the assessment gives them specifics that they can act on.

Ready to learn more about your own accent? Contact us today at 1-865-226-9477 to set up your free assessment.

Language Games – Knoxville Asian Festival

Knoxville Asian Festival

Shall we play a game?


Confidence Learning Services is excited to be a sponsor at the Knox Asian Festival. Knoxville’s first Asian festival will take place at Krutch Park in downtown Knoxville tomorrow, Saturday September 20th. Confidence Learning Services will be hosting two games at the Asian Festival.

Knoxville Asian Festival Game #1: Guess The Language

Can you identify these Asian languages just by listening to them? It’s harder than you think. Click below to listen to 5 different Asian languages and guess which languages are being spoken.

Need some help? Choose from the following language options,

  • Japanese
  • Mandarin
  • Vietnamese
  • Korean
  • Lao
  • Thai
  • Burmese
  • Cantonese 
  • Nepali
  • Malay
  • Tagalog
  • Khmer

and post your guesses in the comments. If you come out to Knoxville’s First Asian Festival tomorrow and guess all 5 languages correctly, you’ll win a prize! Even if you don’t get them all, we’ll give you a prize just for playing.

Knoxville Asian Festival Game #2: Test your English Knowledge!

If you’ve ever visited the website “Free Rice“, then you will have an idea of how this game works. We’ll be giving you a tough English word, and you choose the correct definition. For example:

  1. Journey
  2. Challenge
  3. Story
  4. Experiment

Give it a try, post your guess in the comments! If you come by tomorrow and get 10 vocabulary words correct, you’ll get a prize. And even if you don’t get each one correct, we’ll give you a prize just for playing. So come on out and give our games a try! Confidence Learning Services will also be sharing information about our English and Accent Reduction courses, but there will be lots more to do at the festival.

Knoxville Asian Festival

Thai Dance

Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese and Japanese food will be available. Plus, there will be an origami folding station, several martial arts groups will be present, and dance and music performances representing various countries will be featured on stage. Don’t miss it!

Festivals in Knoxville

Knoxville Asian Fest

Today I want to let you know about three special upcoming festivals in Knoxville.

First Annual Knox Asian Festival

Knoxville Asian Fest

Where: Krutch Park, Downtown Knoxville TN

When: Saturday, September 20, 10 a.m – 6 p.m.

Knoxville’s very first Asian festival will feature various performers, including music, Lion Dancing, and Martial Arts. There will be activities including Samurai practice and origami folding. Several vendors will be there, including some great Knoxville Asian food vendors – we’re looking forward to egg rolls! And there will be Door Prizes, with chances to win a $50 gift card, Free Sushi Making class, and more.

Confidence Learning Services will have a language booth at the Knox Asian Festival. We’ll be playing “Guess the Language”, with chances to win prizes for identifying different Asian languages, as well as playing an English language vocabulary game and giving away door prizes. Plus you can sign up in person for our English Pronunciation and Accent Reduction lessons. Stop by and say hi to us!


Knoxville Greek Fest

Knoxville Greek Fest

Where: Saint George Greek Orthodox Church on Kingston Pike in Bearden

When: September 26th and 27th – 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and September 28th 12:00-6:00.

The 35th annual Greek Festival will feature authentic Greek food (Baklava?Dolmeh? Yes please!), as well as cooking demonstrations. There will be authentic Greek wares such as clothing, ceramics, jewelry, books and icons for sale. Face painting and games will be available for the kids, and there will also be church tours available and dancing.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about the Greek Orthodox religion, Greek Culture, and Greek food, and participate in an iconic Knoxville event that has been taking place for decades.


HoLa Festival (Hora Latina)

)Knoxville HoLa Festival

Where:  Market Square in Downtown Knoxville

When: Saturday, September 27th – 7p.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday, September 28th – 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

The HoLa festival always takes place during Hispanic Heritage Month, usually near the 15th and 16th of September which are the Independence days for Mexico as well as many Central and South American countries. Musical performances by the Asheville Tango Orchestra, Reverbnation, and Orquesta de Jaime Bonilla, among others, will be featured.

There will be special dance and drama performances, as well as craft activities for the kids and special family activities.

The food at the HoLa festival in Knoxville is so much more than tacos! Cuban Sandwiches and plantains, alteñas, empanadas, cuñape, tres leches, gorditas, and more will be available. Brush up on your Spanish and come hungry!


These festivals remind us that the city of Knoxville is so much more than Bluegrass music and the Great Smoky Mountains. We have diverse populations that make various cultural contributions to our city, and remind us of how global East Tennessee is becoming. There are more than 17,000 Spanish Speakers in Knoxville, many of whom are represented at the HoLa festival, and many non-native English speakers represented at all three festivals. Take the time to get out and get to know your community a little more, and we hope you stop by and say hello to Confidence Learning Services at the Knox Asian Festival.

How to not be successful learning a language

One size does not fit all

I talk to people regularly who tell me, “I took three years of High School Spanish and I don’t speak a word” or “I’ve taken six ESL classes and I still can’t order dinner in English.” At Confidence Learning Services, when you sign up for a course with us, you can be confident that we want you to succeed in communicating more clearly in your language of choice. But that doesn’t always happen, and in fact,  I’ve even had a client or two myself who haven’t been successful in achieving their goals.

So what is keeping these students from experiencing success in their language learning? Here are some basic principles involved in failing at a foreign language.

Failing at a foreign language – Your Instructor Matters


Who is your instructor? How do they know what they know?

Being a certified, highly-qualified Spanish teacher, I can let you in on a little secret – not all Spanish teachers are fluent Spanish speakers. In the U.S., this depends a lot on the state’s requirements to become a licensed teacher, but the truth is, a lot of people memorize the grammar and vocabulary needed and pass the tests to get their license without being a fluent speaker.

In East Asia, the problem is almost an epidemic, with many if not most English teachers unable to speak English themselves.

As a result, these teachers rely on textbooks, vocabulary and grammar memorization, and pre-packaged quizzes to teach a language that they can’t really use to communicate.

How can you tell if your instructor is a fluent speaker? Well, you can start by asking them about their education and experience, maybe ask for their personal recommendations for authors, singers, favorite actors or TV shows in the language they teach. If possible, get them to talk to a friend who speaks the language, or see if you can find a recording of your instructor speaking the target language.

Failing at a foreign language – One-size doesn’t fit all

One size does not fit all

“One-size fits all” language classes are not effective

Even if you had a fluent French speaker for a teacher in high school, the materials that teacher used can make a lot of difference. If they were restricted to teaching grammar from a textbook, and trying to teach a class of 30 teenagers whose interests and talents ranged from basketball to philosophy to dance, they simply made do with what they had. Unfortunately, if you learn best by reading novels, and your teacher decided to show a TV series to your class, you were out of luck. If you picked up the language quickly, but your teacher had to constantly review for students whose pace was slower, you were also out of luck. Pretty soon, a few years have gone by and you still don’t speak French.

When looking for a language learning program, personalization matters. Talk to your instructor about how they personalize their course, if they offer the same courses regularly or if they vary their offerings. An individual or small group course is the best context for language learning. At Confidence Learning Services, because our students are different each time, we never offer the same course twice. The important thing is that you are getting materials and opportunities that work for you.

Failing at a foreign language – Time matters

Time Matters

30 minutes a day = 3.5 hours one day a week?

None of us have the time we need to accomplish everything we would like. But in language learning, regular practice is key. The brain shuts down to new language information after about 90 minutes, so completing an hour a day will be more beneficial than cramming 6 hours in on Saturday.

It’s important to recognize before you begin studying a language how much time you can dedicate to regular practice. If your workout routine, volunteer commitments, and ongoing education courses are taking up your time, you may want to reconsider adding a language learning program to your routine.

As a rule of thumb, if you cannot dedicate about an hour a day to practice, it might not be the best time to start a language learning plan.

Failing at a foreign language – Authentic communication matters

After taking some foreign language classes, you may be able to listen to a conversation on an audio learning CD successfully, play some games, or sing a song in your target language. But are you really communicating?

It’s important to use your new language to actually communicate. Communication opportunities – whether they are sending e-mails, visiting your local Spanish language store, having an open-ended conversation with your conversation, or attending a worship service in the target language – should be built into your language learning program. At Confidence Learning Services, specializing in offering the highest-quality personalized language instruction available means we work hard to build this communication practice into each course, even for clients who live in a different state.

Sometimes this is a little uncomfortable or intimidating. I recently asked a client to visit a local Spanish-speaking business and ask employees there to give her directions to somewhere else. But that authentic practice is vital to your communication skills.

Failing at a foreign language – Following directions matters

Following Directions

“My trainer said to lift weights to build arm muscle, but I want to try the treadmill instead.”

This one should be a given, but I run into this situation from time-to-time with my clients. I assign specific practice materials and opportunities, only to find that my clients don’t follow through with their assignments. It may not be a question of their time, either, as I sometimes find they have spent more time practicing something else entirely! But here’s the thing – following directions matters.

If you go to a personal trainer at the gym, tell him that you want to enhance your muscles and bulk up, they may assign a weight lifting routine. But sometimes, weight machines can be confusing, and you might decide to spend that time on the treadmill instead. Don’t be surprised when you haven’t reached your goals after a few months. You weren’t following directions that were created by a trained expert, and you decided to follow your own advice instead.

If you have a course with a qualified instructor, providing personalized curriculum, building in authentic communication practice into the course, and you have dedicated the appropriate amount of time to practice, you could still fail simply by not following directions. Say your instructor has assigned a vocabulary list to you, but you decide to learn a different one. Or you have a movie assigned to watch, and instead you decide you would prefer to spend that time listening to dialogs on CD’s. You might even think you can learn more from listening to those Audio learning CD’s than you can from watching the movie your instructor assigned. But here’s the thing – following directions matters. Instead of simply changing course, let your instructor know why that assigned movie didn’t work, or why you would prefer a new vocabulary list. In everything, but especially in language-learning, communication is key.

So what do you think? Have you had any experiences succeeding or failing at learning a foreign language? Why do you think you were successful, or not successful?

If you would like to be successful in learning Spanish, improving your English, or speaking with an American Accent, contact us today, at 1-865-226-9477.