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When one says the following type of sentences, they have a negative connotation.

  • You are too nice.
  • You are too fast.
  • You are too intense.

I am curious if there are any instances when we could use 'too' but in a positive way?

According to http://blog.myhappyenglish.com/2011/05/26/english-lesson-so-too-very/

Too + Adjective

Too + adjective is used to show something is excessive or problematic. Too is used with negative adjectives like expensive, tired, difficult, etc. Too implies a negative feeling and perhaps an unstated negative consequence. Look at the following example:

Justin: Do you want to come to the party tonight, Mike?

Mike: Sorry, Justin. I’m too tired.

My old car is too unreliable.

Economics is too difficult for many students.

When we want to show that because something is excessive or problematic and there is a consequence, we use too + adjective, as in the above examples. When we simply want to emphasize an adjective, we use very.

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    In the way it is often used in practice, the statement "You are too kind" does not have a negative connotation; it essentially just means "Thank you". – potentially dense Apr 16 '14 at 12:56
  • Is that the case with formal written English? Wouldn't the appropriate word be, very... You are very kind? – Keni Apr 16 '14 at 12:58
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    Dear Keni: I don't think that saying "too kind" instead of "very kind" is informal. Indeed, the entry at macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/too categorises the phrase as "spoken formal". Personally I don't regard it as belonging more to spoken than to written English, but since I am getting into the murky waters of opinion here, perhaps I should leave further analysis to the experts... – potentially dense Apr 16 '14 at 13:04
  • That was a useful link... I got my answer in there as well.. be only too glad/pleased/happy (to do something) to be very willing to do something I'd be only too happy to help. Thank you aps. – Keni Apr 16 '14 at 13:08
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    "That outfit you're wearing is too fabulous!" It is beyond even your regularly impeccable fashion taste. – Wayfaring Stranger Apr 16 '14 at 13:50
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Are there any instances when we could use 'too' but in a positive way?

Sure there are. It all depends on context:

“Rhonda got her results back from oncology. She's cancer free.”

“Really? I'm too happy for words – it's almost too good to be true!

Also, as others have said, "You're too kind" is idiomatic; it can mean: "You're very helpful." There's nothing wrong with widely-recognized idiomatic speech, even in a formal context. I wouldn't deem it overly informal.

  • Yes in the situations...be only too glad/pleased/happy ...it seems to be positive. That seemed to be the only time according to the site user aps shared.. macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/too – Keni Apr 16 '14 at 13:42
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    Too X means 'a quantity of X that exceeds a limit'. Since X is more likely unpleasant, it's frequently intended to be negative, and then it can trigger Negative Polarity Items (I'm too angry to speak to anybody). But this doesn't happen with the polite idioms here (*I'm too delighted to speak to anybody is a very strange, and not very polite, thing to say). – John Lawler Apr 16 '14 at 15:12
  • John, Based on what I found, 'X' is usually unpleasant and therefore, too-'X' is usually negative. I was wondering if there were instances when 'X' could be unpleasant. I discovered earlier today that only if 'X' is glad/happy/pleased then it is a positive connotation. – Keni Apr 16 '14 at 17:25
  • I agree that it's all too easy to come up with negative examples (my feet are too tired, my car is too old, my dentist is too grumpy) than positive usages of "too." But the question didn't ask if positive usages were "common"; it merely asked if there were "any." I agree with John Lawler's explanation of why these are not very abundant. – J.R. Apr 16 '14 at 19:22
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I don't think any of the sentences you mentioned are inherently negative. It's entirely contextual. If somebody gives you a great birthday present, saying "you are too nice" isn't negative. If a waiter comes out with your food right away, saying "you are too fast" isn't negative. It's all about context.

  • Kevin, I suspect that there is a difference in usage depending on the formality of the situation... refer to macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/too.. John Lawler explains it very well in his comment....Too X means 'a quantity of X that exceeds a limit'. Since X is more likely unpleasant, it's frequently intended to be negative, and then it can trigger Negative Polarity Items (I'm too angry to speak to anybody). But this doesn't happen with the polite idioms here (*I'm too delighted to speak to anybody is a very strange, and not very polite, thing to say). – John Lawler – Keni Apr 16 '14 at 17:28
  • I'm not sure how that disagrees with what I said. It all depends on the context. In fact, saying "you are too kind" can be negative if said sarcastically. I don't think there is one particular answer here, as it depends on the context. I think that's what OP's homework is getting at. – Kevin Workman Apr 16 '14 at 17:30
  • Unless sarcasm like you mentioned and informal setting, I feel 'too' is used for negative or problematic cases.. Refer to the too + adjective section blog.myhappyenglish.com/2011/05/26/english-lesson-so-too-very – Keni Apr 16 '14 at 17:35

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