She suggests to Pat that, if the herd sale does take place at Bridge Farm, they could go off somewhere nice for the day. Later, Pat agrees to the on-farm sale, explaining that she and Helen have plans if it gets too much. (thearchers.co.uk)

What does the highlighted part mean?

1 Answer 1


"If it gets too much" is a phrase meaning "if the situation becomes too difficult to deal with". In your example, Pat is saying that if the herd sale becomes too stressful, she has plans with Helen to go somewhere else instead.

Similarly you have the expression "It's just too much" for when a situation has already reached the point of whatever "too much" is in that context. Usually this refers to a negative situation (as in your example, where Pat wants to have an escape in case the sale is too stressful), but that's not always the case. For example if a surprise party is thrown, and the recipient is very surprised and happy, they might then also say "It's just too much".

  • 4
    +1 To make the idiom a little clearer: gets is used here in the sense of becomes and might be written more fully gets to be (which in my experience is the more usual US way of expressing it). Apr 29, 2013 at 0:12
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    I'd say the fully written out expression is: gets to be too much to handle
    – Jim
    Apr 29, 2013 at 2:29
  • @Jim: I think it's meaningless to suggest the idiomatic form is "short for" any specific longer sequence. It could just as well be expanded to gets to be too much to deal with, for example. You probably wouldn't say that "I'm too hot", for example, was a short form of "I'm too hot to feel comfortable", or whatever. Apr 29, 2013 at 2:57
  • @FumbleFingers- It still seems to me that to <something> has been elided. But I suppose you are correct- it is impossible to say specifically what that might be.
    – Jim
    Apr 29, 2013 at 3:50

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