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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 22nd, 2013, 11:28 pm
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Default so vs very

Hi susan,

Is there any difference in meaning, degree or any way between very and so in the examples here?

1. I'm very/so glad you could come!

2. I'm very/so sorry for making such a mistake.

3.Thank you very/so much.

Many thanks.
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  #2 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 23rd, 2013, 03:08 am
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Default Re: so vs very

"So" is more emphatic than "very". The exclamation mark would be normal to indicate this with "so" but less likely with "very".
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  #3 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 24th, 2013, 10:22 pm
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Default Re: so vs very

Hi susan,

What a wonderful opportunity! I'm so happy for you.
What a wonderful opportunity! I'm very happy for you.

Is the only difference between very and so in the examples that "so" is more emphatic than "very"?

Many thanks.
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  #4 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 25th, 2013, 02:57 am
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Default Re: so vs very

Yes - that's what I said
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  #5 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 26th, 2013, 12:04 pm
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Default Re: so vs very

Hi susan,
I can't figure out why "so" is more emphatic than "very" in those examples? Could you please explain that?

Does 'very' sound natural in this sentence?
"Why are you very nervous?"

Thanks a lot.

Last edited by fface : Mar 27th, 2013 at 12:08 am.
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  #6 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 27th, 2013, 02:56 am
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Default Re: so vs very

So = an emphatic word. It's used in the sentences you quote in order to be emphatic (and is usually stressed). Compare :
It was so hot!
It was really hot!
It was incredibly hot.
It was extremely hot
It was very hot.


They're on a scale from emphatic (so) to non-emphatic (very). Intonation can of course affect the degree of emphasis. Heavy stress on "incredibly" would make it more emphatic than an unstressed "really" of course, so the positions on the list aren't rigid. But intonation aside, "very" is definitely down the bottom.

As for your question - as always it depends on the context. It is impossible to say yes or no without knowing the situation. So eg here it would be fine :

A : I was very nervous before the interview.
B : You were very nervous? Why were you very nervous? You were the ideal candidate!


But in other contexts, eg where the speaker is irritated by the other person's nervousness, "so" makes more sense - both for the degree of emphasis and because it has the meaning "to the degree that I can see", which is right for the context.

Will you please stop pacing up and down! Sit down and relax, for heaven's sake. Why are you so nervous? It's only a dentist's appointment!
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  #7 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 29th, 2013, 12:16 am
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Default Re: so vs very

Hi susan,

1.Are incredibly and extremely hot hotter than very hot?

2.Does 'so' also work in the example you gave?
A : I was so nervous before the interview.
B : You were so nervous? Why were you so nervous? You were the ideal candidate!

3.J:Are you free now?
T:No, I'm very/so busy.
J:Why are you always very/so busy?
Do very and so sound natural in the context?

4.When I take a test and say "It's so easy!"
Does 'so' connote a surprise? i.e. It's much easier than I expected.

Many thanks!
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  #8 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 29th, 2013, 04:27 am
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Default Re: so vs very

1. Yes - but it's all relative. I love hot water. If you don't, your "incredibly hot" might be my "tepid". Again it depends on the speaker's viewpoint and how much emphasis they want to add.
2. Yes
3. T's utterance - both are possible depending on how emphatic she wants to be.
4. J's utterance : very - possibly, if there's heavy stress on "Why" which marks it as an echo question (though this is probably less likely); so - much more likely for the same reason as I said before : the speaker means "to the degree that you describe/that I see". And as in (4), yes, the emphasis might indicate surprise, or possibly criticism : That was a rubbish test. It was so easy! Anybody could have passed As always, it depends on the context.
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  #9 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 30th, 2013, 11:41 pm
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Default Re: so vs very

Hi susan,

1.Is 'really hot' as hot as 'very hot'?

2.Is 'incredibly hot' as hot as 'extremely hot'?

3."Will you please stop pacing up and down! Sit down and relax, for heaven's sake. Why are you so nervous? (Does 'so' indicate surprise here?) It's only a dentist's appointment!"

4.A : I was so nervous before the interview. (Is it possible that 'so' here indicates surprise? Can it connote I expected I might be nervous, but not this much?)

B : You were so nervous? Why were you so nervous? (Does 'so' here in these two sentences mean 'to the degree that you describe' and indicate surprise?) You were the ideal candidate!

5.Are you free now?
T:No, I'm so busy. (Does 'so' connote surprise or anything else here?)
J:Why are you always so busy? (Does 'so' indicate surprise here? i.e. busier than I would expected)

6.Does 'so' have the meaning:to the degree that you describe/I can see in "I'm so glad you could come!"? Does it also connote any emotion?

7.A:How's your mother?
D:She's sick.
A:Is she so weak?
D:Yes.
Can I use 'so' in 'Is she so weak?' here?


Many thanks for your kind help.

Last edited by fface : Apr 1st, 2013 at 07:59 pm.
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  #10 (permalink)  
Unread Apr 7th, 2013, 09:41 am
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Default Re: so vs very

Hi, fface,
I was teaching this lesson just the other day. It seems to me that 'so' often (not always) has a connotation of surprise - ie, sth is, or occurs, to a degree that is greater than expected. It can also indicate an ellipsis (leaving words out), and imply a result that is not said, but can be imagined by both speaker and listener: "There were so many people there! [... that I could never count them all.'] 'I was so embarrassed! [... that I wanted to die.'] The left-out information could simply be "The movie was so good! [...that I was surprised, because I thought it would be ordinary.']

As for your questions above:
1: 'Really' should be hotter than 'very.' "Really" should be said with more emotion than "very" and so it certainly seems hotter.

2. 'Incredibly' and 'extremely' are pretty much the same. (Think of the literal meanings: the first is 'unbelievably' and the second is 'to an extreme, ie, as hot as possible.) Both are probably exaggerations for effect.

3. The 'so' in here is NOT surprise, but indicating 'to the extent that I can see.' ("Why are you so nervous [... that you are pacing back and forth?"]

4. A: The meaning is a strong 'very.'
B: The repetition of "You were so nervous?" sounds odd. "Why were you so nervous?" is asking about being nervous to that extent - the extent that A implied by her comment.

6. T's reply is not very natural, unless the 'so' is stressed very strongly ("I'm soooo busy!") If not, it sounds like an non-native speaker's mistake. Of course it can be understood, but it's not what we'd say. 'Really' or 'very' would be more natural.
J's response, however, is fine: "Why are you so busy [to the extent that you're not free]?" I think it's not showing surprise at being busy, but the extent is unexpected.

7. A's question is not natural English. ("Is she very weak?" "Yes, she's so weak that she can't raise her arms" would be OK.) Maybe 'Is she so weak?' doesn't work because it's a question, and so the speaker can't emphasise the extent of the weakness because they don't know it yet.
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  #11 (permalink)  
Unread Apr 8th, 2013, 12:48 am
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Default Re: so vs very

Hi Fiona,

Many thanks for your kind and helpful answer. I often hear they say I'm so glad... or I'm so sorry... on TV like the following examples:

1.I'm so glad you could come!

2. I'm so sorry for making such a mistake.

Does 'so' here in 1 and 2 imply a result that is not said or anything else except emphasis?
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  #12 (permalink)  
Unread Apr 8th, 2013, 02:12 am
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Default Re: so vs very

Hi fface,
In 1 and 2 (and also, "Thank you so much!"), the 'so' is only emphasis. But it should be heartfelt. I remember hearing a non-native speaker say, "Thank you so much" for something that was really just a small favour, like passing the salt or some ordinary action like that, and it sounded like sarcasm, because the thanks was too great for the help. So be careful to save the emphasis for times when it is genuine, because more emphasis is not the same as more polite.
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  #13 (permalink)  
Unread Apr 9th, 2013, 12:50 am
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Default Re: so vs very

Hi, Fiona,

Many thanks for your helpful explanation!

1.
Quote:
Quote FionaVB View Post

"Really" should be said with more emotion than "very" and so it certainly seems hotter.
"The movie was so good! [...that I was surprised, because I thought it would be ordinary.']

"The movie was really good!"
What emotion does 'really' imply here? Does it imply surprise? i.e. It's better than I would expect?

2.Is so hot > really hot > incredibly hot for the degree of hot?

3.Is 'so' informal and so we often use it to emphasize 'very' in informal situations?
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  #14 (permalink)  
Unread Apr 9th, 2013, 02:53 am
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Default Re: so vs very

1. so good vs really good
These are similar in degree, I think. Both show enthusiasm and a high degree of "good-ness" about the movie. But the word 'really' does not indicate surprise. (The tone of voice and facial expression might show surprise, even if the speaker chooses to use 'really'.)

2. I would say that "incredibly hot" should be hotter than "really hot" but "so hot" comes down to the individual speaker's opinion.
In fact, all of these could show different degrees depending on the speaker's own speech habits. Some people like to exaggerate and put a lot of emotion into their conversation, and use words like 'incredibly' when other people would just say 'quite'.

3. I haven't really thought about 'so' being informal. I guess it is more spoken than written; in writing I think I would be more likely to finish the ellipsis: "It was so hot that three people fainted." 'Very' is a bit boring for spoken situations, and I would normally use other qualifiers in conversation, but I think it depends on personal preference as to when/who/why we would use 'so'.
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  #15 (permalink)  
Unread Apr 10th, 2013, 12:48 am
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Default Re: so vs very

Hi Fiona,
Quote:
Quote FionaVB View Post
6. T's reply is not very natural, unless the 'so' is stressed very strongly ("I'm soooo busy!") If not, it sounds like an non-native speaker's mistake. Of course it can be understood, but it's not what we'd say. 'Really' or 'very' would be more natural.
J's response, however, is fine: "Why are you so busy [to the extent that you're not free]?" I think it's not showing surprise at being busy, but the extent is unexpected.
Do you mean it's showing surprise at the extent that is unexpected?

Is it fine to use "Thank you very much" in your example as follows?
Quote:
I remember hearing a non-native speaker say, "Thank you so much" for something that was really just a small favour, like passing the salt or some ordinary action like that, and it sounded like sarcasm, because the thanks was too great for the help.


Many thanks for your great help!
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  #16 (permalink)  
Unread Apr 10th, 2013, 03:02 am
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Default Re: so vs very

Oh gosh, there is a lot of thinking here about something we usually say without thinking!
Let's see...
J:Are you free now?
T:No, I'm *so busy. (very)
J:Why are you always so busy?
Yes, I think there is surprise at the extent of T's busy-ness. "Why are you always busy?" shows some surprise too, and that is why J is asking the question. But "Why ... so busy?" implies surprise at the extent, eg: 'so busy (that you can't help me)' or 'so busy (that you can't go out for lunch.)' So yes, the extent is unexpected, so J is surprised.
(By the way, it seems to me that "Why are you always very busy?" is not a question that would be asked by a native speaker. I think it needs the 'so' to show understanding, and not mere repetition, of the extent referred to earlier in the conversation, ie "I'm very busy."

In my example, "thank you very much" might still be too much, and "thanks" or "thanks very much" would probably be better. It depends how grateful the speaker is, and how much effort the other went to, in order to help.

I'm only a teacher, but I do enjoy thinking about how we use language with such subtle nuances. I may be quite wrong - I'm not following written rules here, I'm just trying to let you know how these words sound to me. I hope it helps you, because as it becomes clearer to me, I think I will be able to teach it better too!
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  #17 (permalink)  
Unread Apr 10th, 2013, 10:51 pm
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Default Re: so vs very

Hi Fiona,

Thank you so much for all your helpful comments.
Why did you say "thanks very much" would probably be better"? What's the difference between 'thanks very much' and 'thank you very much'? They seem to mean the same idea to me.
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