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English Grammar ~ Use ‘SO’ [not VERY] when you’re surprised! (Student conversation)

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I get many blog ideas from my private students here in Japan. Great questions from people learning English, just like you!  (Or for other teachers ~ just like your students!)

This is from a natural conversation I had with a student after a lot of snow fell in Tokyo in January 2013. 🗪

My student said "I didn't think it would snow very much." I knew what he meant, but we can say it with more natural English.

To say "I didn't think it would snow so much." is a better way to show your feeling ~ “I was surprised by the amount of snow.”

This was a great chance to explain how we use the word "so" when we are surprised. So often has a similar meaning to very, but so is used in sentences with the feeling of "something unexpected." 😯

"I didn't think it would snow so much." is the same as "I didn't think it would snow that much." BUT to say "I didn't think it would snow very much." is not natural in this example.

I didn't think... shows our surprise, so it's natural to use so as an intensifier instead of very

Please look at the next example:

"I tried to go for a jog yesterday, but I was so tired after just 5 minutes I had to stop." ~ I got tired quickly, I was surprised how difficult it was for me. (I am in bad shape!)

Compare that with -

"I just did a 5k (km) run. I'm very tired." ~ In this sentence very is natural because the fact that you are tired is not surprising. After a 5k run of course you'll be tired!

*"I just did a 5k (km) run. I'm so tired." is also okay, in this example both so and very make the adjective tired more intense. Stronger.

One more example:

"I need to replace the windshield on my car, mine is cracked. I went to the auto repair shop and I couldn't believe how much a replacement windshield costs! They are so expensive!"
~ I'm surprised by the price of windshields. (I couldn't believe the price of windshields)

Compare that with -

"My coworker was showed me his new watch at the office yesterday, it's a Rolex. It's a beautiful watch but it must be very expensive."
~ Rolex is a well know brand and they make good quality watches. I expect them to be expensive. It’s not a surprise.

Word definitions from:

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