4

In the short story I'm reading now (「ドライブ・マイ・カー」 by Haruki Murakami) there are two very similar phrases to express what I would translate as "too cautious": 「慎重すぎる」 and 「慎重に過ぎる」:

いささか乱暴すぎるか、いささか慎重すぎるか、どちらかだ。

彼女たちは多くの場合、慎重に過ぎる女性ドライバーたちを馬鹿にし、[...]

My question is: are those two phrases different in some way because having or not having 「に」 between 「慎重」 and 「すぎる」?

Also, why is 「すぎる」 written using hiragana only in one case and kanji in the other?

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Though it is fairly subtle, there is a difference between the two.

It sounds a little more literary and/or formal when 「に」 is inserted than when it is not. There is no difference in meaning.

Regarding the kanji vs. kana issue, the author could have chosen to use either for both as far as "correctness" is concerned. It seems to me that he made an aesthetic choice here by avoiding using three heavy-looking kanji in a row in 「慎重過ぎる」 in the first sentence.

「慎重に過ぎる」 in the second sentence looks a little スッキリ to us because of the breathing room that the hiragana 「に」 produces there.

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