The medicine was too expensive for me to afford it.

My practice question marked that as wrong for I didn't put the It out at the last. It suggested me to use "...too expensive for me to afford". I couldn't grasp the idea why would that matter. I googled them, but people use the equivalent states as they are with it in the last. Besides I'm not sure there's any wrong in the sentence below as well.

It's too hard to do it alone.

Do I also have to rephrase it into like "It's too hard to do alone"?

  • 29
    The person who graded your test made an error in marking your answer wrong if the test was being graded on grammar not style. Both versions are idiomatic.
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 19:50
  • 2
    It's a pleonasm
    – mcalex
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 10:58
  • "I couldn't afford the medicine" is the simplest, best way to express it Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 12:55
  • Using the way it was marked comes across like you have way more skill with the language. Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 8:33
  • I'd say "I could not afford the medicine", and "it was too difficult to do alone". Also, "hard" is an occasionally ambiguous adjective. Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 8:38

7 Answers 7


In your first example, there probably isn't an adequate grammatical rule about why. I can tell you the it is unnecessary, and generally you don't want to use more words than necessary to communicate. That probably isn't the answer you want, but you can think of it another way. There is only one subject ("the medicine") in that sentence so you don't need to refer to "the medicine" again.

In your second example, "It's too hard to do alone" is much better than "It's too hard to do it alone." You are saying the same thing in fewer words.

I would actually drop the entire phrase "to afford it" because you're just repeating the same thing twice in the same sentence. Generally, if you can communicate the same idea in fewer words you'll be better off. As a native English speaker, I would say

  • The soup was too hot for me.
  • The test was too difficult for me.
  • The drink was too strong for me.

instead of

  • The soup was too hot for me to eat it.
  • The test was too difficult for me to pass it.
  • The drink was too strong for me to drink it.

because those ideas were already implied. Hope that helps.

  • 16
    I think your 3 examples do not all say the same thing. "The soup was too hot for me" may just mean that it's hotter than I prefer soup, not that it's inedible. Specifying the problem caused by excess hotness clarifies the meaning of a sentence that is otherwise vague. Likewise the test might have been so hard I got a worse result than I expected, but still passed; or the drink was so strong it tasted bad but I drank it anyway.
    – amalloy
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 22:04
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    The second phrase is not repeating the same thing. The OP's sentence means "I do not have enough money to buy it". But "The medicine was too expensive for me" only means "I thought the price was too high." If I have $100 in my pocket, I can afford to buy something costing $10, but I can still say it is too expensive if I know I can buy it somewhere else for $5.
    – alephzero
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 0:26
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    @ACH I thought your answer was superb until the final words, 'already implied'. I think better would be: 'already implied to some extent'. You could then note that native speakers would rarely choose the more-precise alternative examples you listed unless there was some need to be specific about the actual sequence of events or their reasons. I would probably use your short versions most of the time, but occasionally I would see some reason to prefer the longer ones. Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 6:00
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    @alephzero I agree. If anything, using the second half of the sentence in the OPs statement makes the intent clearer. "I can't afford it" is far less ambiguous than "It was too expensive for me" IMO. I also can't tell you how many times people my coffee/tea/hot chocolate too strong but I drink up anyway, so I'd hardly say the first half implies the second.
    – user81621
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 10:59
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    Just totally disagree with this answer. It's up to the speaker to put as much or as little redundancy into his or her sentence as they wish to put into their sentence; putting much redundancy into a sentence is not a grammatical error.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 12:54

As far as I can see, it is grammatical both with and without "it" at the end.

I think I would usually say it with "it", but I'm not certain.

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    In most contexts I would probably drop the whole "for me to afford it" and just say "The medicine was too expensive". If it wasn't clear that it was personally too expensive, then I would restore "for me". Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 20:55
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    @AlexReinking But you might still buy medicine even if it's too expensive. However, if it's too expensive for you to afford, you can't buy it. In many contexts, they convey slightly different ideas. Even the "it" at the end subtly changes the meaning. For example, in context it might seem that you mean the medicine is too expensive to allow you to afford your tuition and maybe you'll forgo your tuition to buy the medicine. By making clear that the medicine is too expensive to afford, it's clear you're not buying the medicine rather than sacrificing other things for it. Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 22:12
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    The medicine was too expensive, since I found it for half the price at a different store. The rest is only redundant if you heard it. "The medicine was too expensive" can have many reasons.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 12:56

With test question, you need to be clear about what is being tested. And with language learning, that can mean the difference between being grammatically correct and being idiomatic.

My guess is that what is found to be wrong about the inclusion of ‘it’ is probably that it is not idiomatic. Most people in conversation would probably leave out the ‘it’. But the inclusion of the ‘it’ as the object of ‘to afford’ is correct. You can leave out the ‘it’, because of a ‘missing object’ principle, applying to comparative sentences involving excess and deficiency.

The apples are too high (for me) to reach (them) / not ripe enough (for me) to eat (them)...

In your example, as you can see from other answers, some would include the ‘it’, others might cut down to the bare essentials, making “the medicine is too expensive for me”. But it is not a matter of grammar.


Both phrases are absolutely grammatical and fine.

I would only say that the first is maybe a little awkward, because the "it" is redundant and therefore not used like that very often. But it doesn't even sound unnatural, at least not to me.


I would say intuitively that from syntax perspective it depends on how you cut the sentence, and this explains why both versions are acceptable:

With this first cut, the last bracket is an infinitive structure, which requires the it:

[The medicine was too expensive] [for me to afford it]

You could in theory put that last bracket at the beginning of the sentence, where the it cannot be omitted.

With this second cut, the last bracket is a subject complement (a sort of multi-word equivalent of an adjective), which cannot have the it:

[The medicine] [was] [too expensive for me to afford]

In other words the syntax uncertainty is what makes the it optional.


I'd agree with everyone else that it is grammatically correct. The problem is it sounds clumsy because it is redundant. "The medicine was too expensive for me" should be enough. If it's too expensive, it follows that it is unaffordable.

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    – ColleenV
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 18:07

The construct "The noun is too adjective for me to verb" can be used transitively, but the object is very strongly implied as being noun. In most cases where the object isn't noun, some other construct should be used, and in most cases where the object is noun it shouldn't be stated unless there is a reason to state it.

Consider, for example:

  • The mice were too fast for me to catch both of them.

  • The mice were too fast for me to catch more than two.

In the second construct, the implication that the verb "catch" refers to the mice is so strong that including "of them" would sound unnatural. In the first construct, however, the need for "both" to have a bound object is sufficiently strong that including "of them" would seem more natural than omitting it. An alternative phrasing would be "catch them both".

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