Is there a term for this syntax?

If you can say "a very good person", then why not "a too good person?"

example: John is too good a person to do something like that.

Why does "too good" have to come before the determiner in this kind of construction?

  • 1
    It's actually "John is too good of a person..." but the of is frequently omitted. – Kristina Lopez Sep 15 '15 at 22:07
  • You might find this helpful: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/22346/… – vstrong Sep 15 '15 at 22:10
  • 2
    Too is a negative quantifier and requires an infinitive to define what's being negated; e.g, He's too poor to buy a ticket means 'He is so poor that he doesn't have enough money for a ticket'. So *a too good person, if it were grammatical, would mean someone who is so good that something is not possible (whatever that might be). – John Lawler Sep 15 '15 at 22:23
  • English is full of idioms which seem illogical. Perhaps it is the result of the way the language has developed, a bit like the British built environment. But too convoluted a process it would be now to revise everything so that all roads ran straight, and the cities were more ergonomically sized and located. . – WS2 Sep 15 '15 at 22:24
  • @JohnLawler I think perhaps a too nice person does exist - and they are different to too nice a person. Occasionally someone will say - I don't trust that guy, he seems 'too nice' to me - he is a too nice person, as opposed to *too nice a person to...'. – WS2 Sep 15 '15 at 22:32

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