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In the song, "Imagine" by John Lennon, one of the lyrics is, "and no religion too". This is certainly not how most people talk – it would normally be, "and no religion either." However, is this lyric actually grammatically incorrect or just idiomatically incorrect? I.e., is "too" here grammatically incorrect or just a weird way of speaking?

Imagine there's no countries.
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too

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  • It may not be how people speak, but people also don't normally speak in rhyme.
    – Stuart F
    Jul 29, 2023 at 10:13
  • IF we imagine no religion as echoing the first (negated noun phrase) no countries, we'd probably expect either rather than too. BUT if we imagine the final line as cited to be echoing the entirety of the first line, I see nothing particularly unusual about ...imagine there's no religion too. Not sure why that parsing makes a difference, but it certainly seems to for me. Jul 29, 2023 at 11:23
  • Orwell codified the law 'If it sounds outrageous, it is better rephrased, even if you have to violate certain other rules to do so' [paraphrasing]. Extending this reasonably, non-idiomaticity is sometimes worse than ungrammaticality. Acceptable grammar changes over time (and space). Jul 29, 2023 at 11:37
  • (Imagine there's) nothing to kill or die for and no religion, too. I don't see a problem with that. Aug 5, 2023 at 2:45

1 Answer 1

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Huddleston & Pullum (2002) discuss this issue (ch. 9, p. 830), with the example sentence:

Kim didn’t see it, and Pat didn’t see it too.

They note that, while this sense of "too" is generally forbidden in negative contexts, such a sentence "might be regarded as marginally acceptable by some speakers provided the final adjunct is prosodically set off to some extent."

I'm willing to give Lennon a pass on this one.

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    As ignorant and sophomoric his lyrics were in this case I cannot help but allow his lines to stand as they are. We should hope to survive the results.
    – Elliot
    Jul 29, 2023 at 4:41
  • I was about to press the usual 'song lyrics and standard usage overlap too narrowly to not be classed as POB' ⅓-CV button, but this answer is a good find, and shows that the usage is more widespread than I imagined. Jul 29, 2023 at 11:30
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    I've heard too used as a synonym for "as well" often enough in contexts that contain a negative, when the negative is seen as a good (positive) thing by the speaker, who imagines the listener is in agreement, as in these Lennon lyrics. "Johnny doesn't have to turn off the TV when he's doing his homework, and he doesn't have to go to bed by 9PM on school nights too!" If that statement was made to the disciplinarian parent of the speaker, it might get changed to a resentful "... either!"
    – TimR
    Jul 29, 2023 at 11:44
  • Everything quoted from H&P in answers on this site seems to me to be totally wrong. "Might be marginally acceptable"? Nope. -1.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jul 29, 2023 at 12:38
  • @AndrewLeach I'm with H&P on this one. To me this usage of "too" sounds colloquial and somewhat nonstandard, but I don't think it's particularly rare in casual speech.
    – alphabet
    Jul 29, 2023 at 16:15

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