Too Good

Dear teachers,

I recently did Cambridge Celta pre-course assignment. (Anyway, I have already submitted it for marking). One of the questions required us to comment on the following sentences in a conversation:

"Wasn't that movie amazing?"
"Yes, it was too good"

I found the adjective phrase, "too good", odd. I would say "it was very good" to such a question than "...too good". If it had been "it was too good to be true", for instance, I would have found the phrase acceptable. In short, "too good", I reasoned, should have been followed by a complement in order for it to be complete.

I discussed my answer with a friend, who felt that there was nothing wrong with "too good".

What do you think? (Thank you for answering my question).

Comments

  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭
    edited January 5

    There have been times in the past when phrases like too good were fashionable. The first edition (published from 1884) of what is now the OED commented

    ‘Now chiefly an emotional feminine colloquialism’

    Around that time there was a fashion for too too, which the OED calls an affectation. People using the phrase were making a show (not pretending to be serious) of exaggerating how good something was.

    Fashions like this come and go, so we can't confidently dismiss too good as always wrong. And many second language speakers who generally speak English well do use _ too_ to mean 'very' before adjectives with a positive meaning. Native speakers may not object because the meaning is clear from the speaker's tone of voice. Nevertheless it sounds foreign.

    Generally, for native speakers of English, too means 'very' only before adjectives with a negative meaning in its context. So we can say that a film is too bad, too long, too boring, too violent, too complicated, too old-fashioned etc.

    A basic definition of too before an adjective is 'more than enough'.

  • Dear DavidCrosbie, thank you very much for your detailed explanation. I appreciate it.

    You said, "there have been times in the past when phrases like "too good" were fashionable" --- do you mean, native speakers used "too good" the way it is used in the example I cited?

    By the bye, I found an example sentence ---"you're too kind"--- under "too" entry in Oxford Dictionary---is this too used like "too good"? Does "you're too kind" have any negative connotation?

  • Antaryanym, it's hard to know exactly how native speakers used the phrase because we only have the written record — not the tone of voice.

    The tone of voice is really important in the expression 'You're too kind'. The word too is stressed and held a little longer than usual. The word kind starts a little higher than usual in pitch.

    There's a sort-of negative connotation, but it's the speaker suggesting that he or she doesn't deserve the kindness. But it's usually an exaggeration.

    We can use too good is the same way — for example refusing a present:

    Oh I can't accept this. It's just too good!

    suggesting perhaps 'I don't deserve it' or 'You've spent too much money'.

    Perhaps a better description than negative is

    not in the right way or not to the right extent.

    So, according to that phrase, being kind to someone who doesn't deserve it isn't right even though it's positive.

  • I have another point of view to this query. Why do we have to use too..... sth when we have an abundance of words in English? Even an intermediate knows words like fabulous, wonderful, awesome, superb. I feel the key to learning English in the best possible way is to look for a word which is appropriate for the situation or mood you want to describe.

    If you find something wrong in this comment, please, please, please let me know and help me get one step closer to my love #English. It's a discussion after all.

  • Danish, you don't 'have to' use adjectives preceded by an emphasising adverb, but many speaker choose to do so. This is because they think the particular adjective expresses just what they want to say, except that they want to add that bit of emphasis.

    Too is a poor choice, but it's OK to use very, really, totally, extremely, ever so, etc.

    Many of these can be used twice e.g. very very good, really really good.

    I don't think I could say extremely extremely good but I might say ever so ever so good.

    Note how often I've used the word say. This is a type of phrase for colloquial speech. We wouldn't write a phrase like this — except in a very informal style.

    [ BOLD is a way of adding emphasis in writing, so
    WRITTEN very informal = SPOKEN very very informal ]

    And when we say these phrases, we put all the vocal expression into the adverb not the adjective.

  • Hi @Antaryamin,

    You also asked about the use of 'too kind' - I would say that there aren't really any negative associations with this one. If you tell someone that they are too kind, it is generally because they have done something extremely kind, more than expected. Perhaps you might say it when a person is being a bit excessive in their kindness, but generally 'too kind' is not meant in a bad way.

    Best wishes,

    Joanne

  • Yes and no, Joughtred.

    It all depends on there situation — in particular the attitude of the speaker to what the person spoken to has done (or does or is doing).

    'Generally', as you say, the speaker thinks that what the other person has done is kind and appropriate. However, there are less frequent occasions when the speaker thinks that the action — although done out of kindness — was inappropriate.

    He or she may think, for example,

    • that the recipient of the kindness will take advantage by exploring the kind person's unwillingness to object or refuse anything.
    You're too kind. Now they'll never stop asking you for money.

    • that the recipient won't learn to be independent.
    You're too kind. You should let them make mistakes and learn from them.

    • that the kind person will suffer loss.
    You're too kind. You'll lose all your money if you give it away like that.

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