I often see phrases like "a little too much", "a little bit too small", "a bit too big", "a little bit too much old", "a little too heavy", and "a bit too old" and as far as I know it means "to some extent (slightly or fairly more) than an amount (much) beyond what is reasonable" but what is the difference in extent between them?

I mean how differ these 5 for instance?

  1. He is a bit too young.
  2. He is a little bit too young.
  3. He is a little bit too much young.
  4. He is a little too young.
  5. He is a little too much young.

As Oxford dictionary says:

"a bit" - A fairly large amount; somewhat; to some extent.

So does that mean that "a little bit too young" is somewhat less too young than "a little too young" and "a little too young" is slightly less younger than "a bit too young" and "a little bit too much young" is way much younger than "a little/ too young" but less younger than "a bit too much young"?

I have also come upon "a little bit too much, too little (or any other adjective)". How much more or less is that?

1 Answer 1

  1. The forms involving the word “much” are not used. The words “too much” could easily be followed by a noun (“too much noise”), including a noun phrase that begins with an adjective ("too much black pepper"), but I cannot think how they could be followed by an adjective standing alone, as in “a boy who was too much young.”

  2. The other three forms in the question seem almost indistinguishable. I think individual speakers might tend to favor one form or another as a matter of habit or taste. But we could not establish how many years of age are intended by each expression; the words are not precise in that way. Context and intuition might lead a listener to guess, rightly or wrongly, what the speaker means.

  3. But if I said that Dan is a bit too young to be Vice President, and you responded “Yes, but just a little bit,” the distinction would have some meaning. Of course it would still be just a guess how many years of age you had in mind, but the addition of the word “little” would suggest, at least, that you thought that you had in mind a smaller difference of age than I had in mind.

  • too much + adjective are used! Google that "a little bit too much ". I have also seen "a little bit too much, too little *(or any other adjective)" Jul 5, 2017 at 16:19
  • "A little bit too much" is absolutely fine, however "a little bit too much <adjective>" absolutely is not. You cannot say "too much old". The only acceptable way to use those three words is "much too old". Or, if you prefer, "a little too old" is also fine; just remove "much". The point is that you're using either much or little to qualify "too", and "too much" is itself an adjective phrase, and thus cannot modify another adjective like "young" or "old". Jul 5, 2017 at 16:31
  • @Rhythmatic So examples in Google search are all incorrect? Or maybe I'm confusing the adjective with something else? Jul 5, 2017 at 18:44
  • Keep in mind, that non-native speakers DO often speak incorrectly, and use google. "A little bit too much." is fine, and "a little too much <noun>" is fine, but "a little too much <adjective>" is not. You MUST remove the "much" because "much" defines a quantity of something, whereas "too" simply defines a degree of something. Since adjectives like "young" or "small" or "heavy" are not quantities, "much" cannot be used. But they ARE variable qualities and thus "too" works just fine to show excessive degree. Jul 5, 2017 at 19:03
  • @SovereignSun I don't understand this conversation. I Googled "a little bit too much" and I did not find any examples in which an adjective follows. What examples did you find?
    – Chaim
    Jul 5, 2017 at 21:45

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