Adverbs So & Such: What’s the Difference?

so-such-tornado-danger-storm-weather-scary-black-grey

Looking at this picture, we could say:

  • A tornado is such a dangerous phenomenon.
  • A tornado is so dangerous.

What’s the difference?

Both of these words intensify. They emphasize the danger. They make it bigger. However—

We use such when the phrase ends with a noun: such (…) phenomenon.

We use so when the phrase ends with an adjective or an adverb: so dangerous.

so-and-such-helicopter-flying-pilot-sky-skill-danger-exciting

  • This helicopter pilot must fly so skillfully.
  • It takes such awareness and control to fly a helicopter so safely.
An additional use of so is with quantity words like many, few, much, or little. The quantity word is followed by a noun.

so-such-stars-galaxy-night-cosmic-desert-cactus-dark

For example: There are so many stars in the night sky.

Count nouns take many or few. Non-count nouns take much or little.

It would take so much time to travel to these stars. (Time is a non-count noun.)

gymnastics-so-such-gymnasts-people-man-woman-art-dance-leap-jump-perform-show-dangerous-exciting

  • It takes such practice to be a gymnast.
  • They must be so fearless.
  • They have to land so precisely.
  • I bet they have so many falls and get so many bruises before they get it right. (Falls and bruises are count nouns.)

We can also add a “that” clause to these statements. This clause shows the results of this intensified situation.

For example, we can say:

  • A tornado is so dangerous that when a tornado is sighted, an alarm sounds.
    • Cause: tornados are dangerous
    • Effect: alarms sound when tornados are seen
  • It is so scary that everyone runs into the basement.

    • Cause: tornados are scary
    • Effect: everyone runs into the basement
  • It does such a lot of damage that it costs millions of dollars to repair it.

    • Cause: tornados do a lot of damage
    • Effect: it (the damage) takes millions of dollars to repair.

Now you try. Describe this image using both so & such. (Answers below)

ship-boat-so-such-storm-danger-dangerous-waves-water-ocean-sea

Possible Answers:

It’s such a big storm. It is such a big storm that sailors are advised to go back to port.

The waves are so high.

They are crashing so forcefully over the boat.

There is so much water on the deck that no one could stand on it.

The people in the boat must feel so afraid.

They must wonder why they made such a stupid decision to go out on the ocean in such dangerous conditions.

They probably don’t feel so well.

For listening practice, watch these YouTube Videos explaining the difference between so & such:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AP-zR5NV8kA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8S1xASl0_c

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