In the sentence given below

Your watch is five minutes too fast.

What is the meaning of too?

I think five minutes fast in itself is sufficient and too does not make any sense.


Idiomatically, you hear both; however I would say that you only really need "too" in there if you include a measurement such as "five minutes" in your example.

A watch may be unique in that we want it to be precise - neither fast nor slow. Saying "my watch is fast" suggests that it possesses the quality of being fast (ie that it gains over time), which for a watch is no use.

In any other context though, "fast" or "slow" could be exactly what we want. For example, you might say "my new computer is fast!" I can't imagine anyone saying their computer was too fast.

However, if you include a measurement, such as seconds or minutes in the case of a watch or clock, you need the word "too" in there to show that the speed or slowness is excessive by that amount. For example, if you were trying to get on a fairground ride with a height restriction of 5ft and you were 6ft tall, you wouldn't say "I am 1ft tall", because that is a declaration of your total height! You would say "1ft too tall".

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  • I often say "my watch is five minutes fast" with the 'too" elided and implied. By the way, a watch is not really unique in this respect. Any measurement instrument should be accurate, although only a watch or clock or chronometer measures time. But a spedometer can also be 'too fast" or "too slow" registering a speed higher of lower than the correct speed, for edample – David Siegel Jul 9 '19 at 19:59
  • I might add that a computer can be too fast -- I have dealt with cases where a computer was running too fast, and therefore produced too much heat for its cooling system, and malfunctioned. I have also dealt with cases where programs interacting with outside hardware relied on how long a computer took to perform cetian operations, and when moved to a faster computer, tried to do things before the hardware was ready, so the computer was too fast. – David Siegel Jul 9 '19 at 21:09

I would say that both

  • Your watch is five minutes too fast.
  • Your watch is five minutes fast.

are acceptable and have the exact same meaning. In the second case the "too" is elided and implied. "Too" is correct because the speaker is saying that the watch is ahead of where is should be. The word "too" is used in this sort of construction to mean excess:

  • You have gone too far.
  • I ate too much.
  • The window is five inches too wide.
  • The meeting is half-an-hour too short.
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