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I thought the combination of too...to always resulted in a negative meaning, as in this sentence:

He is too smart to fall for your tricks.

(which, of course, means he is so smart that he cannot fall for your tricks)

Then, I came across this:

He is too ready to believe anything you tell him.

And that does not negate anything at all. Sources like this, however, state that too...to is always a negative construction, and yet, as I can see, it is not always a negative construction. So, other than the context itself, is there a rule to determine what too...to implies?

closed as off-topic by FumbleFingers, Drew, David, Rory Alsop, Davo Sep 12 '17 at 18:55

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  • depending on the intonation, the second one can also mean "he is ready too to believe...", as a positive sentence – David Haim Sep 10 '17 at 14:47
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    You second example implicitly negates what one might expect/desire (or what it would be in his best interests to do). But please don't say I'm too keen on migrating question like this to ELL. – FumbleFingers Sep 10 '17 at 14:59
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The grammatical construction too + adjective/adverb + to infinitive has a negative meaning. But in order to get the negative meaning, there should have a contrasting connotation in the total sense denoted by the adj/adv and the to infinitive. The OP's second sentence does not have this contrasting effect to create a negative sense by the too...to infinitive construction.

Compare: 1.He is too smart to fall for your tricks - negative sense- (smart but to fall for tricks - a contrast )

2.He is too ready to believe anything you tell him - No negative sense - (ready to believe - no contrast)

More example sentences from the same site linked by the OP can show this:

He was too nervous to perform well on the stage. (Nervous but to perform well - contrast)

I was too busy to talk to her. ( Busy but to find time to talk - contrast)

The task was too difficult to do without help. ( Difficult but to do without help.)

  • So, the "always negative" summary is wrong? Is that what you're saying? – Xanne Sep 10 '17 at 22:22
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    @Xanne, No, too...to infinitive construction is always with a negative meaning. Others (the ones like OP's 2nd sentence ) have nothing to do with this construction. They are ordinary statements meaning He is always ready to believe anything... Moreover, ready is a non-gradable adjective, and cannot be modified by adverbs like very, too etc. – mahmud koya Sep 11 '17 at 0:33
  • Yes and sideways, isn’t too always negative anyway? What would be a positive equivalent to He is too smart to fall for your tricks, please? What positive phrase using too could answer does that fit? as It’s too big does? Isn’t even too good to pass up a negative by comparison? How could a positive opposite for too tight or too flimsy use the same construction? Not too good to pass up works purely because it's logically a double negative… – Robbie Goodwin Sep 12 '17 at 18:32
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    He is too smart to fall for your tricks means He is so smart that he can't/won't fall for your tricks; not like, *He is very smart but he can/will fall for your tricks. That's why it is called the *too...to infinitive construction has a negative meaning. All sentences/clauses/phrases containing too + adjective/adverbs are not negative. – mahmud koya Sep 13 '17 at 0:33

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