SoGrammar > So
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.
Not: … so lovely pictures …
We use such not so to modify noun phrases:
She is such a hard-working colleague.
Not: … so a hard-working colleague.
It’s taken them such a long time to send the travel brochures.
Not: … 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.
Not: 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 verbsSpoken English:
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 exclamationsSpoken English:
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.
Not: They drove very fast that …
So as a discourse markerSpoken English:
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!