Usage of indefinite article and too



Is there any alternative to this construction?

It was too stupid a question.

I mean, can we somehow put the 'a' in a different position and is it used in English (maybe informal) or the version I've given is the only possible? Also, I feel as if something's wrong in my previous sentence, it would be very nice if anybody corrected it.

Vlad Stryapko

Posted 2014-04-28T11:37:31.147

Reputation: 531

2+1, this question is certainly not stupid. Your example sentence is completely correct, but I am actually puzzled by the position of the article myself now :) – oerkelens – 2014-04-28T11:43:02.870

Somehow, the sentence sounds just fine to me (just like "too many a man" does). I'd say that "a too stupid question" is unlikely, though "a very stupid question" is quite common. – Damkerng T. – 2014-04-28T11:44:53.313


It gets worse! This one might be *too hard of a question* for a definitive short answer!

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2014-04-28T11:56:21.450

As one of my college professors once said: "There is no such thing as a stupid question. It's just the people who ask them." – Jay – 2014-04-28T13:22:02.027



Your sentence,

It was too stupid a question.

is good and correct. However, you can rephrase it if you'd like,

I thought (that) the question was too stupid.
Let's forget the question -- It was too stupid.
NOT It was a too stupid question.

(Please see an excerpt from a grammar book below.)

From: Practical English Usage by Michael Swan,

595 too
4 not used before adjective + noun
Too is not normally used before adjective + noun.
  I put down the bag because it was too heavy. (NOT ... the too heavy bag.)
​  She doesn't like men who are too tall. (NOT She doesn't like too tall men.)
​  Let's forget this problem – it's too difficult. (NOT ... this too difficult problem.)
In a rather formal style, too can be used before adjective + a/an + noun (see 14). Note the word order.
​  It's too cold a day for tennis.

Here is the entry 14 mentioned above:

14 adjectives (3): position after as, how, so, too
After as, how, so, too and this/that meaning so, adjectives go before a/an. This structure is common in a formal style.
​  as/how/so/too/this/that + adjective + a/an + noun
​  I have as good a voice as you.
​  She is too polite a person to refuse.
​  How good a pianist is he?
​  I couldn't afford that big a car.
​  It was so warm a day that I could hardly work.
The structure is not possible without a/an.
​  I like your country – it's so beautiful. (NOT I like your so beautiful country.)
​  Those girls are too kind to refuse. (NOT They are too kind girls to refuse.)

Damkerng T.

Posted 2014-04-28T11:37:31.147

Reputation: 27 649

PS. In my opinion, too hard of a question is of a different structure, though the meaning is similar to too hard a question. – Damkerng T. – 2014-04-28T13:39:40.820

Thank you for information. The only thing that bothers me is the last example. 'They are too kind girls to refuse' seems correct and logical for me, I can't do anything with it. I hope it isn't very serious mistake because I will probably make it during speaking. – Vlad Stryapko – 2014-04-28T14:47:46.310

I double checked the text, and it was written so. Though the book doesn't say it explicitly, I believe that it strongly suggests that only "too kind a girl" is the normal usage, not "too kind girls". In short, you need to rephrase it the way the book suggests. – Damkerng T. – 2014-04-28T14:55:15.330


A question that was too stupid!!

This construction is common with too and so.

  • too hard a job for me to do.
  • so interesting a book to read
  • too difficult a task to be carried out.
  • so nice a girl to know.


Posted 2014-04-28T11:37:31.147


+1 I'd add that it is not unheard of to say, "It was a too-stupid question." But "too stupid a question" is surely more common. – Jay – 2014-04-28T13:21:21.540

But "a too-stupid question" is, I think, nonstandard. – snailplane – 2014-04-28T13:56:09.273


This really should be a comment, but I don't have the rep to comment. The sentence sounds odd to me, because, to my ear, "too" needs to be explained -- too stupid to (or for) what? "It was too stupid a question to waste time on." "It was too stupid a question for most of the audience." (I don't mean your question!) Yes, the "a" sounds a bit odd, but it is OK. What would definitely not be OK is "It was too stupid OF a question to waste time on." This construction is seen far too often.


Posted 2014-04-28T11:37:31.147


'tis kinda late comment, but thanks for your addition anyway. – Vlad Stryapko – 2015-07-19T08:12:49.473