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?

  • Indeed, for instance, you can't use it with "grand"... But I can't find the reason it works with some, and not with others...
    – Random
    Apr 13, 2016 at 7:12
  • We can use "Il est devenu tout grand cet arbre" to emphasize that the tree has become very big.
    – MorganFR
    Apr 13, 2016 at 8:26
  • I rather agree with random: "tout grand" is indeed never used. One would always say "il est devenu très grand".
    – BBBreiz
    Apr 13, 2016 at 8:34
  • We are not just talking about what the preferred expression is, but also about the different possibilities, and "tout grand" is in fact an expression that is used in French. Other examples include "ouvrir tout grand les yeux", "un tout grand merci" and more. It is just a different register, that is used mostly in literature. Here's the ngram to support it. tinyurl.com/glhsgz9
    – MorganFR
    Apr 13, 2016 at 8:53

2 Answers 2


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.

  • What do you mean by "If you use "très" to mean "very" in some cases, your friend might not react as expected." ? Apr 18, 2016 at 20:40
  • "tout" is laudatory while "très" is more pejorative
    – Charly
    Apr 19, 2016 at 7:08

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.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.