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I came across the following sentence in my textbook (上級へのとびら, lesson 12, page 279). It is part of a presentation explaining how to make 押し花:

まず、最初にティッシュペーパーを1枚ボール紙の上に置きます。次に、そのティッシュペーパーの上に草花を並べて置きます。この時、あまりたくさん置きすぎないようにして下さい。

I understand the last sentence as "this time, don't put too much/many [flowers]." But the problem is that this could be expressed already with すぎない, without the use of adverbs, couldn't it?:

この時、置きすぎないようにして下さい。

So I don't understand what nuance あまりたくさん adds here. Moreover, if I were to add an adverb to stress the point, I would rather use only あまり with a negative verb:

この時、あまりたくさん置きすぎないようにして下さい。

What meaning or nuance does たくさん add after あまり?

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So, この時、あまりたくさん置きすぎないようにして下さい can be deconstructed as follows:

  • 置き - put in, fill

  • たくさん置き - put in many, fill it up

    • nice and full of flowers
  • 置きすぎ - overfill

    • don't know whether it's been overfilled by a small or large amount; just that it's in excess of the expected limit
  • たくさん置きすぎ - overfilled it {a lot / with too many}

    • definitely know it's been overfilled by a large amount
  • あまりたくさん置きすぎない - not overfill it very much / with so many

    • don't overfill it to such an extent / in excess of the limit, but still make sure its the full amount

In general speak, it's a bit like a glass of wine in a restaurant. Although the standard amount is 100ml, the customer wants you to fill their glass right up to the top (overfill it) but, not to the excessive degree / extent that the wine's spilling over everywhere on their table.

Related Expressions / Idiomatic Usage:

  • できるだけ飲みすぎないようにしてください
  • 顔がたくさんすぎて気持ち悪い
  • 君に伝えたいことがたくさんありすぎて
  • たくさんありすぎる
  • 沢山すぎて
  • たくさん作りすぎたソファ

There are a few points to note here:

  • たくさん = lots of, many, much
  • 過ぎる = too much / many of N, or over-V
  • あまり~Sない = not very much / many of ~

たくさん is generally used to indicate the amount of something, using

  • an adverb: 今年はたくさん雪が降った。A lot of snow fell this year.
  • a noun: この部屋には机がたくさんある。 There are a lot of desks in this room.

過ぎる can be interpreted two ways in this context - put in too many nouns or over-verb. Overfill (over-put) works better as it works better with the amount and still enables the amari~nai pattern to indicate overfill but not to excess or immoderately. As such, and it avoids the double adverb problem you mentioned - 'too too much'.

あまり~Sない is an adverbial pattern that is used with a negative predicate to indicate the degree or extent of something

  • この本はあまりよくない。 This book isn't very good. 
  • 鈴木さんはあまり食べない。 Suzuki doesn't eat much.
  • 私はあまり速く走りません。 I can't run very fast.
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  • Thank you very much, I understand now that あまり and たくさん are not joint here, but たくさん is modifying an inner clause that is inserted as a whole into the pattern あまり~Sない. However, I still don't understand the difference between 置きすぎ and たくさん置きすぎ. Is it just a matter of emphasis?
    – jarmanso7
    Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 0:27
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    Just updated the last few lines, Cheers
    – Kathy
    Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 0:59
  • The distinction between "being excessive or not" vs. "being excessive by a bit or being excessive by a lot" made it much clearer. Thanks.
    – jarmanso7
    Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 3:40

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