How To Use TOO | Stop Making This Common Mistake in English!

Lesson Overview

Lesson Summary 

I see this common English Mistake TOO much! Avoid making errors with TOO by practising with me in this lesson today! I’ll show you how to use too good, too funny, too smart, correctly.

Video Transcript
Section 1
Hey there I’m Emma from mmmEnglish! Today I want to talk to you about this. I’ve read it and I’ve heard it so many times from my students, too many times. Today I want to nip it in the bud. I’m going to explain why it’s incorrect to say:

I like your lessons too much.
Your lessons are too good.

And I’ll teach you what you should be saying instead. Are you ready?

Let’s take a close look at this sentence.

  • I like your lessons too much.

What do you think the feeling is behind this sentence? Is it positive? Is it negative? What’s this person trying to say? Can you think of a different way to express the same idea? If you can, write it down in the comments for me. I want to see what you can come up with.

While the intention is good, the meaning of this sentence is not. This person, I think means to say:

  • I really like your lessons.
  • I like your lessons so much.
  • I like your lessons a lot.

All of these sentences are really good alternatives. They talk about the degree to which the lesson is lacked. You know, we could also bring that degree back down a little. We could lower it and say:

  • I don’t really like your lessons.

So why shouldn’t you say I like your lessons too much. Your lessons are too good.

Let’s talk about why too is not the best choice for this sentence. Think back to when you learned about too much and too many. We know that using too in this way suggests that we have more than what we need or what we want, more than what is suitable.

So much and many are used with nouns, aren’t they? We can say:

Too many people
– that’s more people than you want or you need.

Too much furniture
– more furniture than you want or you need.

Too many options
– more options than you want or you need like I can’t decide.

  • There’s too many options!

So in addition to much and many, too can be used with adjectives and adverbs to give us more information about those adjectives and those adverbs. We can say:

  • He’s driving too fast.
  • You’re speaking too quickly for me.
  • He’s too old to run that business.

Notice that too always comes before the adjective in the adverb but what you really need to remember is that by using too with an adjective or an adverb, it usually suggests that it’s a negative thing because too means, the definition of too in this context is that it’s more than you need or you want right so it has a negative feeling. It’s a problem. There’s too much of it.

  • It’s too high.
    Means it’s higher than you want, right?
  • The shelf is too high. I can’t reach it.
  • I’m too hungry to concentrate. I can’t concentrate. All I can think about is food.

It’s a negative thing. I’m not able to get my work done because I’m hungry. You can even emphasise, make the meaning even stronger. We can say:

  • This lesson is too long.
  • or This lesson is way too long / far too long.

So way and far help us to add emphasis to that negative feeling. It makes it even stronger. So far, so good right? Clear?

Now where some of my students get stuck is when they use too to express positive ideas with adjectives like good, funny and smart.

So if we apply the same logic, we think about that, too good means more good than you want something to be or if you like something too much then you like it more than you want to.

So can you see how the meaning starts to get a little strange when we’re talking about positive adjectives and emotions and feelings and that’s because we’re trying to say something positive but with a word that usually suggests a negative thing? Let’s look at an example.

  • You’re too qualified for this role or for this job.

So if you’re qualified for something, you have the education and the training that you need to do that job well, right?

To have qualifications is a good thing, to be qualified is a good thing so we know now that if you say you’re too qualified then we’re suggesting that there’s some sort of negative meaning or there’s a problem, right?

  • The qualifications that you have are more than what is needed or what is wanted.

So you might hear this when you’re applying for a job. If you get told that you’re too qualified it probably means that they’re about to tell you that you’re not getting the job that you applied for because you’re too qualified. You’re overqualified.

I actually had this happen recently. I put out a job ad. I wanted someone with about three to five years experience in a marketing and a communications role and someone applied who was the director of a creative agency and had been working in marketing for over ten years and so initially I thought:

Awesome! This is going to be great. She’s going to be amazing! She’s going to bring all these amazing skills but then I started thinking…

Hang on, I’m gonna have to pay her way more than I budgeted for this role because her experience and her skills are more than what I can pay for. She was too qualified and too experienced for the role.

So can you see how even something positive can sometimes be a negative thing and that too is a really important part of communicating that so you’ve got to be careful?

Let’s imagine that you really enjoyed a movie, well then don’t say: The movie was too good.
If you really like this lesson don’t say: I like this lesson too much.

So what should you say instead? Any ideas? You can use very or really to add emphasis. This doesn’t create a negative meaning, it just adds emphasis to the adverb or the adjective that you’re using.

Same with so. So we can use so to add emphasis but it’s like even more than really and very. It’s like shock and surprise.

  • Wow, that is so expensive.

But compare that to:

  • It’s too expensive.

Then we’ve got a problem. Maybe I don’t have the money to pay or I don’t want to pay that much money for it so I’m saying it’s too expensive to say that there’s a problem.

In any of these sentences, we can add really, very or so.

  • The movie was really good.
  • I like this lesson so much!

These are the words that you need to use to emphasise positive emotions.

Now I know that some of you are gonna say: Hey Emma, you made a whole video telling us not to use very. What’s with that?

Okay point taken but once you are accurately and confidently using too, very and so then I want you to watch this lesson up here to expand your vocabulary and express yourself in more advanced ways to go even further beyond this lesson.

Now I don’t want to rock the boat too much here but I am going to talk about the few times when it is actually appropriate to use too with positive adjectives and adverbs in English.

Yeah! There are a few occasions where it makes sense to say that someone or something is too good or too funny or too smart.

Can you think of a time when you might tell someone that they’re smarter or funnier than you want them to be or you need them to be? What about if you’re competing against someone? Maybe it’s a spelling test or a maths quiz or the quiz that I put out here on Youtube last week.

You could say to someone: You’re too smart for me.
Smarter than I want you to be because I can’t compete with you.

Maybe you’re just playing a game with a child and you want to tell them that they’re better than you are. They’re better than you are at this.

You can say: You’re too good for me.
I can’t beat you. I can’t win. You’re too good for me.

  • You’re too good.

So in this context, we’re saying you’re better than me so it’s a positive thing because we’re comparing ourselves to that other person. We’re actually paying them a compliment so in this context, it’s absolutely okay to say that someone is too good or too smart for you.

So you may hear.. Please don’t get mad at me but you may hear this rule being busted by native English speakers, definitely here in Australia, I think in the UK, maybe in the US, let me know but this rule gets broken informally.

Maybe when someone tells you that they played a prank on someone and you might say:

  • That’s too funny.

And I’ve been thinking about this, about why and how and when and I think that it happens when our reaction, our tone, our body language, when that reaction can’t match the emotion for some reason. So if the story is actually really funny but you’re at work so you can’t really burst out laughing or maybe you’re on the phone, then you might say: That’s too funny!

Like I said, it’s really informal and it is an exception, it kind of requires sophisticated use of language and particularly tone but I wanted to mention it just in case you do come across it, you might be able to recognise this exception.

Maybe you hear it in a TV series or something where someone says:

  • That’s too good!

Another exception but this time in a formal situation is you might hear someone say:

  • Thank you, you’re too kind.

But in this context, this is a positive thing right so it’s an exception because we’re saying you’re too kind.

Usually, that would suggest that there’s a problem or that it’s a negative thing. But with you’re too kind, it’s always positive, it’s just quite formal. You’re too kind.

So I hope this lesson reminded you how careful you need to be with this little but important English word and if I ever see you write a comment under one of my lessons saying:

Emma this lesson is too good!

I will be able to send you right back to this video right just to remind you about what you need to do, what you need to pay attention to as you’re using too.

Of course, if you have any doubts or questions or requests to make make sure you add them down in the comments below. I would love to get back to you down there and continue the conversation.

Make sure you’re subscribed to the channel just down there. I make new lessons every week including ones like this one. If you want to practise your natural English pronunciation and expression you can do that with me in my imitation lessons.

Thanks for watching this lesson and I will see you next week. Bye for now!

Links mentioned in the video

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