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While I was doing a quiz on an English grammar website, I saw this sentence

I do not have (too - enough) much time to prepare dinner

and "too" as the correct answer. But what I've learned and what is explained on the website, is "too ... to" means more than necessary. I thought it was a mistake, but I've found many sentences like it on Google. Can you explain me its use in this sentence, please?

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    Correct answer to what question? – deadrat Sep 17 '16 at 2:08
  • It was a MCQ. And this is the answered sentence. Sorry for confusion – Mohamed S Darwish Sep 17 '16 at 2:12
  • @MohamedSDarwish It's an odd locution. I would expect I don't have enough time to prepare dinner, but that leaves out the much. The to isn't a factor. It's just part of the infinitive complement. You could rephrase I do not have too much time for preparing dinner. Too much means an excess, so here "more than enough" or "more than necessary". Do you remember the other choices? – deadrat Sep 17 '16 at 3:17
  • @deadrat Suggests good question for single-word request. – Richard Kayser Sep 17 '16 at 3:55
  • The other choice was "enough" – Mohamed S Darwish Sep 17 '16 at 11:21
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In a neutral situation, the sentence would read 'I don't have enough time...' However, the use of 'too + much' is intended to convey that there is some criticality or seriousness related to the situation. Perhaps he is cooking for his mother-in-law or he wishes to be excused on time from his work meeting, or both!

It is less formal and quite commonly used.

  • Yes. The difference seems to be in degree of stress in stating "I don't have enough time to prepare dinner". – blackpen Sep 17 '16 at 8:35
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Too much or very much are common. In negative contexts, they just mean much.

  1. I don't have enough time.

You're having Pop-Tarts for dinner.

  1. I don't have much time.

This might mean: I probably have enough time, but it's going to be close.

Or it might mean: I am about to try to get you to cook dinner tonight.

  1. I don't have very much time.
  2. I don't have a whole lot of time.
  3. I don't have too much time.

All virtually identical to 2. If there's a difference, it's that these are logically a bit weaker. In 5 the literal meaning is that I do not have an excessive amount of time—not much of a statement.

The combination of negation + intensifier makes the meaning subtle. In a positive context, things are easier. You can't use much by itself (I have much time is wrong) and too much literally means an excessive amount (I have too much time to myself is fine).

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I would say:

"I don't have enough time" => I can't do it, it would take longer than the time I have available.

"I don't have too much time" => I can possibly do it if I move fast, but it will take all the time I have got, there will be no margin to spare.

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