Confusing words: so, such
In this post we’ll look at so and such, two more words that often cause problems for students of English.
We’ll see a simple rule that tells us whether we need so or such in a sentence. You can then test yourself with the quick exercise below.
So and such both show an extreme state:
- He’s so tall.
- It’s so cold today.
- It’s such a big country.
- She’s such a nice lady.
Here’s the simple rule:
We use so if we follow with just an adjective or adverb.
We use such if we follow with a noun.
Here are some examples to illustrate the rule:
- Chinese is so difficult to learn. [‘so’ + adjective]
- He always drives so quickly. [‘so’ + adverb]
- Chinese is such a difficult language to learn.
[Here we used ‘such’ because we followed with a noun, ‘language’.]
- The weather is so nice today.
[The noun ‘weather’ comes at the start of the sentence. We therefore used ‘so’.]
- It’s such nice weather today.
[Here we used ‘such’ because the noun ‘weather’ comes later in the sentence.]
! Compare the following two sentences, which mean the same:
- The room was so cold that I had to put my coat on.
- It was such a cold room that I had to put my coat on.
So … that / such … that
When we want to express that the extreme thing or situation has a consequence, we can say
so … that
such … that.
The structures are as follows:
so + adjective + that
so + adverb + that
such + adjective + noun + that
Here are some examples:
- He’s so tall that he can’t find clothes to fit him.
[He’s extremely tall; the consequence is that he can’t find clothes to fit him.]
- It was so cold that I needed three sweaters and a jacket.
[The consequence of the cold is that he needed three sweaters.]
- It’s such a big country that it takes the train three days to cross it.
[The consequence of the extreme distance is that the journey takes a long time.]
So many / so much / so few / so little
We can also use so with many, much, few and little:
- There were so many people in the shopping centre. It was horrible.
- He’s got so much money.
- There are so few teachers in the area that the school has to employ unqualified people.
- I had so little time for lunch that I only managed to finish the soup before I had to leave.
Now try this quick quiz to see how well you can use ‘so’ and ‘such’:
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See more: Confusing Words