This article is a revisit and rewritten version of #EngClass: “very” vs “so” (2012).
“The weather is very hot.”
“The weather is so hot.”
“The weather is so very hot.”
Is there any difference in using ‘very’ and ‘so’ in a sentence?
1. Adverb of degree
As adverbs of degree/degree adverbs, also known as intensifier (adverbs that tell us the intensity of a state), both ‘very’ and ‘so’ can be used interchangeably. They are followed by adjectives or adverbs.
Followed by adjective
“The painting is very beautiful.”
“The painting is so beautiful.”
Followed by adverb
“The painting is very nicely done.”
“The painting is so nicely done.”
Some would argue that ‘so’ signifies more intensity than ‘very,’ whilst I personally think that ‘very’ is more intense. Regardless, both uses are correct. However, whilst ‘very’ can be followed by adjective + noun, rarely do we find such use for ‘so.’
“That is a very beautiful painting.” (common)
“That is a so beautiful painting.” (uncommon)
We can fix the second sentence by moving the article (a/an), but even so, replacing ‘so’ with ‘such’ is more common.
“That is so beautiful a painting.” (correct, but less common, unless followed by another clause. See point 2: cause and effect)
“That is such a beautiful painting.” (correct and common)
What about ‘so very?’ This form is used to further intensify the situation.
“I’m so very worried about you.”
2. Cause and effect
Even though ‘so… that’ is more commonly used to introduce cause and effect, we can also use ‘very,’ ‘such,’ and ‘too,’ to some extent.
“The painting was so beautiful that we couldn’t look away.”
“The painting was very beautiful that we couldn’t look away.”
I hope you feel confident now using ‘very’ and ‘so’. Remember that their roles as adverbs of degree or intensifier can be replaced with a more suitable adjective.
Very/so pretty = beautiful.
Very/so bad = terrible
Very/so cute = adorable, etc.
#EngClass: “very” vs “so”
#EngVocab: Substitutes of ‘Very’
#EngVocab: What to Say Instead of Using ‘Very’ (2)
#GrammarTrivia: Expressing Cause and Effect with “Such… That” and “So… That”