As far as I know "take too long " and "take a long time " are different. And I once read two examples on Internet they considered to be incorrect.As follows :

1)Let's plan on using email to inform the client, because regular mail (takes a long time) .

2)Please expect for the project to be completed by 2013 because creating an index (takes too long).

Correct Ans: 1) takes too long 2) take a long time

My question is, why those are incorrect? what's the difference? Would anybody give me detailed explanations?

  • 1
    "Take too long" means that the time spent is in excess of what we want. It is undesirable. "Take a long time" means only that the time spent is long, but implies no judgment of the desirability of that length of time. Your answers are correct! Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 6:35

2 Answers 2


Take a long time is an idiom, a special meaning of take referring to duration of some event.

  • The train took a long time to pass.

It's one version of the Event take Duration idiom

  • Making egg rolls takes all day ~ It takes all day to make egg rolls.

Take too long uses the same durational sense of take, but the too marks it as a Negative.
Too Adjective means 'so Adjective that Not S, where Not S is some negative outcome.

  • He was too sick to come. = He was so sick that he didn't come.

Thus take too long means 'take so much time that something is wrong'.

  • The train took too long to pass.

means that it was slow, or it was late, or the drivers honked their horns at it, or the speaker was irritated, or something -- details are not always specified. But something was out of expectation.


takes too long

can be used for a comparison of a single thing on its own or when comparing things (your first sentence)

Walking home takes too long. Let's drive home, walking home takes too long.


takes a long time

is used to describe the duration of a single thing (your second sentence)

walking home takes a long time

Sometimes they can be used interchangeably

Let's drive home, walking home takes too long.
Let's drive home, walking home takes a long time.

both sentences have the same meaning.

  • #Peter please consider this sentence - Please don't take too long/ take a long time to get back to me. which one is correct? And give me some more examples with explanations.
    – dz420
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 7:01
  • Both sentences are correct and understandable, the first is more usually used and has more of a "hurry back" feel to it. Common usage would be "don't take too long" to tell someone to be quick, "taking a long time" to describe that they are slow.
    – Peter
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 18:23

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