I sometimes see tout used where I might expect très, such as in this sentence:
On vient d'un tout petit village dans les Ardennes.
Is there a limited set of words for which it is normal to use tout rather than très?
French Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the French language. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
There is no specific rule defining the use of "tout" instead of "très". It is mostly an oral use adding an undertone. For example, "un très petit bébé" in a french's mouth means that an usually small baby. "un tout petit bébé" means a cute baby. Sometimes the undertone is friendship, cuteness, humour ... If you use "très" to mean "very" in some cases, your friend might not react as expected.
Keep in mind : "tout + adj" does not mean "très" in every cases. "La salle est toute bleue" : means the (almost) only color of the room is blue.
I would say it is possible to use it with almost any adjective (tout petit, tout beau, etc...) but in my mind using it implies some sort of affection, and denotes a sense of endearment towards the thing being described.
A bit like using 'wee' in English: un tout petit bébé -> a wee baby
I do not think there is an actual rule for it.