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Are these the same?

The image will be sheared such that the x-axis goes through (1,1).

The image will be sheared so that the x-axis goes through (1,1).

I think I have usually seen the former, I didn't even know that «so that» is allowed in English until I once saw it in a text from a (as I assume) native English speaker.

Simon

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4 Answers 4

up vote 17 down vote accepted

The sentences, while very similar, do have a subtle difference of meaning.

"Such that" is a description of HOW something is to be done:

The image will be sheared such that the x-axis goes through (1,1). -> The image will be sheared in such a way that the x-axis goes through (1,1).

"So that" is a description of WHY something is to be done:

The image will be sheared so that the x-axis goes through (1,1) -> The image will be sheared in order for the x-axis to go through (1,1). (Or, more obviously: Because the x-axis needs to pass through (1,1), the image will be sheared appropriately.)

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Right. It seems that with "such that", the outcome could just be a coincidence rather than intentional. The cup was tipped such that liquid might spill. The cup was tipped so that one could drink from it. –  JCooper Mar 18 '11 at 19:33
    
Good answer hellion –  n0nChun Mar 19 '11 at 5:23
    
Thank you for the answer! –  Simon A. Eugster Mar 19 '11 at 6:46
    
I think people in the US are generally happier with the shortening of say 'The image will be sheared in such a way that the [new] x-axis goes through (1,1)' to 'The image will be sheared such that the x-axis goes through (1,1)' than people in the UK. I'd say that the preferred ellipsis here is 'The shear required is such that the new x-axis goes through (1,1)'. An adjectival rather than an adverbial. Have you authoritative examples showing the adverbial usage, please? –  Edwin Ashworth May 13 at 10:54
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This distinction criterion is very simple and always works: 'such that' expresses consequence, 'so that' purpose.

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I would say “ The image will be sheared such that the x-axis goes through (1,1)” but, as indicated by Hellion, would keep the other construct to express some higher-level aim: “ The image will be sheared so that it is clearer”.

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Also thank you for the explanation :) –  Simon A. Eugster Mar 19 '11 at 6:46
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I think that 'such that' should refer to a subject noun or pronoun. It is often stretched these days like in example 1, where it is lost upon the reader that it is the image that is such that... at least a comma after 'sheared' could help.

Still, it would be good style to avoid 'such that' without clear subject, just like 'so that' would not be appropriate without a verb.

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I agree; I'd prefer 'such that' to introduce an adjectival (see my comment above). I'm prepared to accept the adverbial usage, though; I feel it's a pity no authority for the adverbial usage has been provided. –  Edwin Ashworth May 13 at 10:56
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