Learning English: When to use "too" and when to use "very"

With English learners, the words too and very are frequently misused.

The following are two simple dialogues which will help you understand the difference.

Pretend you are shopping in an English speaking country, and have $300 to spend.

Dialogue 1 - Very

You: "How much is that beautiful dress?"
Shop assistant: "Yes, it is nice, isn't it? That dress costs $249."
You: "Oh! It's very expensive. But I really like it, so I'll buy it."

Dialogue 2 - Too

You: "How much is that beautiful dress?"
Shop assistant: "It's $360."
You: "Oh no. I really like it, but I cannot afford it as I don't have enough money. I only have $300. Unfortunately, it's too expensive."

The point

When you use too it means there is a problem. Usually you are not able to do something. Examples:

  • "The 11pm movie is too late. I can't watch it, as I have to be in be bed by 10pm."
  • "That restaurant is too expensive, because a meal for two costs $150."
  • "You are too late. The tickets are all sold out."

Very, in contrast, is used for emphasis.

  • "That house for sale is in a very desirable neighborhood."
  • "You did a very good job on your exam."
  • "My wife is very smart."

Keep these pointers in mind should you ever make the mistake to interchange too and very in your own English conversation!

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