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So and Such

Perfect English Grammar

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We often use 'so' and 'such' to mean 'very' or 'really'. It makes the sentence stronger and shows that there is a high level of something.

We use 'so' before an adjective or adverb (without a noun).
  • She was so beautiful (= she was very beautiful).
  • He ran so quickly (= he ran very quickly).
  • The food was so delicious (= the food was really delicious).
  • The children spoke French so well (= the children spoke French very well).
We use 'such' before a noun or an adjective + a noun. If there is 'a' or 'an', it goes after 'such'.
  • She was such a beautiful woman (= she was a very beautiful woman).
  • NOT: 'she was a so beautiful woman'.
  • NOT: 'she was a such beautiful woman'.
  • He got such a good time in the race (= he got a very good time in the race).
  • It was such delicious food (= it was really delicious food).
  • The children spoke such good French (= the children spoke really good French).
When we use 'such' directly with a noun, it's often a noun that shows our opinion.
  • He's such a genius! (= he's a real genius / he's very clever).
  • You're such a teacher! (= you act in a typical way for a teacher).
We don't use a word like 'this' or 'those' or 'your' or 'his' before 'so' and 'such'. 'So' and 'such' come directly after the verb.
  • NOT: This so beautiful city. (Instead say 'this city is so beautiful'.)
  • NOT: Your so helpful friend. (Instead say 'your friend is so helpful'.)
We can use 'so... that...' and 'such... that...' to show that there is a certain result. (We can't use 'very' or 'really' in this way.)
  • It was so cold that the pond froze (= because it was very cold, the pond froze).
  • She felt so tired that she fell asleep on the train (= because she was very tired, she fell asleep on the train).
  • It was such an expensive meal that he didn't spend any money for the rest of the month (= because it was a very expensive meal, he didn't spend any money for the rest of the month).
  • They have such a lot of books that they need to store some of them in the garage (= because they have really a lot of books, they need to store some of them in the garage).
We can drop 'that' when we use 'so' and 'such' in this way.
  • It was so cold the pond froze.
  • She felt so tired she fell asleep on the train.
  • It was such an expensive meal he didn't spend any money for the rest of the month.
  • They have such a lot of books they need to store some of them in the garage!
We can use 'so' and 'such' to mean 'to this level' or 'as ... as this'.
  • He isn't usually so late (= he isn't usually as late as this).
  • I don't often drink such a lot of coffee (= I don't often drink as much coffee as this).
We use 'so' before 'much / many / little / few' with and without a noun. This shows that the amount is really a lot or really little. As usual, we use a plural noun after 'many' and 'few' and an uncountable noun after 'much' and 'little'.
  • I ate so much.
  • I ate so much cake.
  • He had so many.
  • He had so many books.
  • Why did you eat so little?
  • He had so few friends that he was very lonely.
We can use 'such' before 'a lot (of)'. Again, such comes before 'a'. (We sometimes see 'such a little + noun' but that is when 'little' is just a normal adjective: 'this is such a little flat'.)
  • He has such a lot of books.
  • I ate such a lot of cake.
Try an exercise about 'so' and 'such' here.

Other Uses of So and Such

Here are a few more idiomatic uses of 'such' and 'so' that are slightly different from what we have already seen.

Such + noun = a certain type or kind of (this is quite formal)
  • I'd never heard such music before. (= I'd never heard this kind of music before.)
No such + noun = the noun doesn't exist
  • Ghosts? There's no such thing!
As such (formal) = in the normal meaning of the word. We usually use this in the negative ('not as such')
  • We're not going to have dinner as such, but there will be plenty of snacks. (= we're not going to have a normal dinner, but ...)
  • A: Is Lucy your boss now? B: Not as such (= not exactly) but she does work for the same company.
Such as = for example / like
  • A: We should get a film for tonight. B: Such as? (= please give an example of a film)
  • Cities such as London are becoming more powerful politically (= cities like London ...).
And such / and so on = and more similar things
  • He likes winter sports – snowboarding and skiing and such.
  • He likes winter sports – snowboarding and skiing and so on.
So = a certain amount / size
  • It was so big (= it was the size I'm showing you with my hands).
  • There's only so much time (there's only a certain amount of time).
So = something that has already been said
  • A: Is dinner ready? B: I hope so (= I hope that dinner is ready)
  • Is that so? (= is that right?)
Or so = approximately
  • I think there were fifty people or so at the party (= I think there were approximately fifty people at the party).
See also the page about 'neither' and 'either' (coming soon!) for more about 'so'.

Try another exercise about 'so' and 'such' here.