What does the phrase "before too long" mean?

Excerpt from where I read this phrase:

The response to the SDK has been quite good and I expect to start hearing about some great apps and success stories before too long.


4 Answers 4


It is an oblique way of saying soon.


In addition to what Jay said, sentences like this are usually a kind of emphasis. “before too long” figuratively means the exact opposite of “a long time in the future”. This double negative (which is a form of understatement) is called litotes.

It’s the same as saying “not bad” when you actually mean “quite good indeed”.

Interestingly, the same exists in most other languages, and has probably always exists. For example, in Latin there’s the idiom “non ignoro”. “ignoro” means “I don’t know”, and “non” is just the negation. Thus, “non ignoro”, though literally translated as “I don’t not know”, in reality means “I know exactly“ (with emphasis).


While others have explained the literal meaning of "before to long" being "soon", I would like to opine on when it is used. The phrase "before too long" is one of hope that something will grow under it's own momentum. Word to spread, crops to grow, etc. Phrases like, "Well, we've planted the corn, before too long we'll be taking it to market." Or, Boy, you keep eating all that corn, before too long you'll be bigger than me!"
This is opposed to the phrase, "It won't be long now" which is used in pessimistic ways. "Grandpa's been sick a long while. It won't be long now before he eats is last piece of corn."
But they are English phrases, so of course they are also used the reverse of what I just said. We like to keep you guessing.


It means before it takes too long time. In your example it may mean in 1-2 years.

  • @timur: Your meaning is totally different from Jay's?
    – Gnanam
    Commented Jan 13, 2011 at 9:00
  • 1
    I don't understand the downvotes on this answer. "Before it takes too long" is the same as soon. I'm not sure where the 1-2 year estimate comes from, but I don't think it warrants a downvote.
    – Jay
    Commented Jan 13, 2011 at 15:18
  • @Gnanam: I don't get your point. I answered before Jay, so I did not see his answer.
    – timur
    Commented Jan 13, 2011 at 15:53
  • 1
    Well, I give you +1. I think your answer is just fine -- maybe someone is misreading it, and/or construing 1-2 years not to mean "soon."
    – Jay
    Commented Jan 13, 2011 at 16:01
  • 1
    IMO, downvotes should be for clearly incorrect answers. Personally I rarely downvote - if someone offers their take on a question, that's worth something, right? Unless it's clearly wrong. That said, what bothers me is the people who downvote and won't add a comment saying why. I think @timur's point that context is meaningful here is a valid one.
    – DCookie
    Commented Mar 23, 2011 at 15:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.