So + adjective (so difficult), so + adverb (so slowly)
We often use so when we mean ‘to such a great extent’. With this meaning, so is a degree adverb that modifies adjectives and other adverbs:
Using that camera is easy. Why is she making it so difficult?
Why is she so untidy?
I’m sorry I’m walking so slowly. I’ve hurt my ankle.
It doesn’t always work out so well.
We also use so as an intensifier to mean ‘very, very’:
That motorway is so dangerous. Everyone drives too fast.
That’s kind of you. Thanks so much for thinking of us.
We often use so with that:
He’s so lazy that he never helps out with the housework.
It was so dark (that) we could hardly see.
We don’t use so before an adjective + a noun (attributive adjective). We use such:
She emailed us such lovely pictures of her and Enzo.
so lovely pictures…
We use such not so to modify noun phrases:
She is such a hard-working colleague.
so a hard-working colleague.
It’s taken them such a long time to send the travel brochures.
so a long time…
So much and so many
We use so before much, many, little and few:
There were so many people on the beach it was difficult to get into the sea.
There are so few people who know what it is like in our country for other people from different cultures.
You’ve eaten so little and I’ve eaten so much!
We use so much, not so, before comparatives:
I feel so much better after I’ve been for a run in the park.
I feel so better…
My house is so much colder than yours.
So as a substitute form
So substituting for an adjective
In formal contexts we can use so instead of an adjective phrase after a verb:
The bus service was very unreliable when I was young and it remains so even today. (It remains very unreliable …)
She is very anxious. She’s been so since the accident. (She’s been very anxious since the accident.)
More so, less so
When we are comparing, we use more so and less so as substitutes:
The kitchen is very old-fashioned, the living room more so. (The living room is more old-fashioned than the kitchen.)
My old office was very dark; my new office less so. (My new office is less dark than my old office.)
So as substitute
With some verbs, we often use so instead of repeating an object clause, especially in short answers:
Will Megan be at the meeting today?B:
I think so. (I think Megan will be at the meeting today.)
The next train is going to be half an hour late. They told me so when I bought my ticket. (They told me (that) the next train is going to be half an hour late.)
So with reporting verbs
Especially in speaking, we sometimes use so in front position in short responses with reporting verbs such as believe, say, tell, hear, read:
She’s the most popular singer. So everybody says, anyway.
Janet got the job.B:
So I heard. (I heard that Janet got the job.)
The Council has given planning permission for another shopping centre in the city.B:
So I read in the paper. (I read that the Council has given planning permission for another shopping centre.)
So am I, so do I, Neither do I
We use so with be and with modal and auxiliary verbs to mean ‘in the same way’, ‘as well’ or ‘too’. We use it in order to avoid repeating a verb, especially in short responses with pronoun subjects. When we use so in this way, we invert the verb and subject, and we do not repeat the main verb (so + verb [= v] + subject [= s]):
Geoff is a very good long-distance runner and so [V]is [S]his wife.
What are you doing tonight?B:
I’ve got loads of exam marking to do and I’m staying at home.A:
So [V]am [S]I.
They all joined the new gym and after three weeks so [V]did [S]he. (… and after three weeks he joined the gym too.)
Neither do I
We also use not … either, nor or neither when we want to give a negative meaning:
I don’t think she’ll be coming to the party.B:
Nor/Neither do I. (or I don’t either.)
So in exclamations
When we make exclamative responses, we can use so as a substitute before the subject and verb be, or subject and modal or auxiliary verb:
We’re out of salt.B:
Oh, so we are!
Look Mum, I can climb all the way to the top.B:
So you can!
So as a conjunction
We use so as a subordinating conjunction to introduce clauses of result or decision:
I got here late. It was a long journey, so I’m really tired now.
You are right, of course, so I think we will accept what the bank offers.
It’s much cheaper with that airline, isn’t it, so I’ll get all the tickets for us with them.
So and that-clauses
We use so + that as a conjunction to introduce clauses of reason and explanation:
They both went on a diet so that they could play more football with their friends.
We also use so + adjective or adverb before that-clauses. We do not use very in this structure:
It was so hot that we didn’t leave the air-conditioned room all day.
They drove so fast that they escaped the police car that was chasing them.
They drove very fast that…
So as a discourse marker
So is a very common discourse marker in speaking. It usually occurs at the beginning of clauses and we use it when we are summarising what has just been said, or when we are changing topic:
[from a lecture on English literature]
So, we’ve covered the nineteenth century and we’re now going to look at all the experiments in the novel in the early twentieth century.
[discussing whether to eat a pudding or keep it till the following morning]
I’m not having it cold in the morning.B:
Oh. So what sort of pudding is it?
So, what time does the film start?
So: other uses in speaking
So far means ‘up to now’:
So far we have kept the news within the family.
We use the expression is that so? in responses to express surprise or suspicion:
When I came to the flat all the lights were still on!B:
Oh, is that so?A:
We sometimes use so in informal speaking to indicate the size or extent of something. We use it in a similar way to this and we usually use hand gestures to show the size or extent:
[referring to a valuable diamond in a ring]
It’s about so small. (or It’s about this small.)
We also sometimes use so to mean ‘like this’:
Hold the racket in your left hand – so. That’s right.
In speaking, we also use so to intensify words, phrases and clauses. We stress so quite strongly. This usage is very common among some younger speakers. It has a meaning similar to just or just like:
I’m so not interested.
That’s so Jack. He always behaves like that. (That’s just like Jack.)
That is so what I don’t want to hear!
(“So” aus English Grammar Today © Cambridge University Press.)
- Adjectives and adverbs
Easily confused words
- Above or over?
- Across, over or through?
- Advice or advise?
- Affect or effect?
- All or every?
- All or whole?
- Allow, permit or let?
- Almost or nearly?
- Alone, lonely, or lonesome?
- Along or alongside?
- Already, still or yet?
- Also, as well or too?
- Alternate(ly), alternative(ly)
- Although or though?
- Altogether or all together?
- Amount of, number of or quantity of?
- Any more or anymore?
- Anyone, anybody or anything?
- Apart from or except for?
- Arise or rise?
- Around or round?
- Arouse or rouse?
- As or like?
- As, because or since?
- As, when or while?
- Been or gone?
- Begin or start?
- Beside or besides?
- Between or among?
- Born or borne?
- Bring, take and fetch
- Can, could or may?
- Classic or classical?
- Come or go?
- Consider or regard?
- Consist, comprise or compose?
- Content or contents?
- Different from, different to or different than?
- Do or make?
- Down, downwards or downward?
- During or for?
- Each or every?
- East or eastern; north or northern?
- Economic or economical?
- Efficient or effective?
- Elder, eldest or older, oldest?
- End or finish?
- Especially or specially?
- Every one or everyone?
- Except or except for?
- Expect, hope or wait?
- Experience or experiment?
- Fall or fall down?
- Far or a long way?
- Farther, farthest or further, furthest?
- Fast, quick or quickly?
- Fell or felt?
- Female or feminine; male or masculine?
- Finally, at last, lastly or in the end?
- First, firstly or at first?
- Fit or suit?
- Following or the following?
- For or since?
- Forget or leave?
- Full or filled?
- Fun or funny?
- Get or go?
- Grateful or thankful?
- Hear or listen (to)?
- High or tall?
- Historic or historical?
- House or home?
- How is …? or What is … like?
- If or when?
- If or whether?
- Ill or sick?
- Imply or infer?
- In the way or on the way?
- It’s or its?
- Late or lately?
- Lay or lie?
- Lend or borrow?
- Less or fewer?
- Look at, see or watch?
- Low or short?
- Man, mankind or people?
- Maybe or may be?
- Maybe or perhaps?
- Nearest or next?
- Never or not … ever?
- Nice or sympathetic?
- No doubt or without doubt?
- No or not?
- Nowadays, these days or today?
- Open or opened?
- Opportunity or possibility?
- Opposite or in front of?
- Other, others, the other or another?
- Out or out of?
- Permit or permission?
- Person, persons or people?
- Pick or pick up?
- Play or game?
- Politics, political, politician or policy?
- Price or prize?
- Principal or principle?
- Quiet or quite?
- Raise or rise?
- Remember or remind?
- Right or rightly?
- Rob or steal?
- Say or tell?
- So that or in order that?
- Sometimes or sometime?
- Sound or noise?
- Speak or talk?
- Such or so?
- There, their or they’re?
- Towards or toward?
- Wait or wait for?
- Wake, wake up or awaken?
- Worth or worthwhile?
- Nouns, pronouns and determiners
Prepositions and particles
- Among and amongst
- At, in and to (movement)
- At, on and in (place)
- At, on and in (time)
- Beneath: meaning and use
- By + myself etc.
- For + -ing
- In front of
- In spite of and despite
- In, into
- Near and near to
- On, onto
- Prepositional phrases
- Words, sentences and clauses
- discourse markers
- emphasising and downtoning
- people and places
- Adverbs as short responses (definitely, certainly)
- All right and alright
- Chunks as frames
- Headers and tails
- Here and there
- Interjections (ouch, hooray)
- Kind of and sort of
- Question: follow-up questions
- Questions: echo and checking questions
- Questions: short forms
- So: other uses in speaking
- types of English (formal, informal, etc.)
- useful phrases
Das Wort des Tages
someone who stands on the street and asks people who are walking past to give money regularly to a charity