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I'm a teacher of English as a Foreign Language, and I would like to get some information on SO as a conjunction. As far as I know, it's a coordinating conjunction, and it's part of the FANBOYS group. I know that SO THAT is considered a subordinating conjunction. However, I've heard a fellow teacher affirming that SO can also be a subordinating conjunction depending on its meaning. Is is true? This would change the way in which we analyse and classify sentences into "simple", "compound", "complex", and "compound- complex". Thanks in advance,

Mary

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  • So you may be in no doubt about your colleague's competence, I assure you that bare so may act as what various grammatical sects call a subordinator or subordinating conjunction. Jul 19, 2014 at 21:15
  • Was the fellow teacher referring to so sentences that included, but were not immediately preceding, that or as? Because that construction sometimes occurs and is correct.
    – Lacey
    Jul 19, 2014 at 21:46
  • Related.
    – tchrist
    Nov 24, 2022 at 20:35

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I mostly agree with your colleague, but I would quibble over the phrase "depending on its meaning". The parts of speech are a characterization of the grammar of a word, which does not necessarily align with its meaning. For example, the meaning of so is the same in both "He started yelling; so, I left" and "He started yelling, so I left", but in the former it is considered an adverb (modifying the independent clause "I left"), whereas in the latter it is considered a conjunction.

As for why I agree with your colleague — consider a sentence like this one:

You mother enrolled you in the pre-Academy program so you'd have a little direction, not so you'd have a reason to go become some half-cocked vagabond on Earth. [link]

It's clear that not is modifying the second so clause (or, perhaps, conjoining the two so clauses). This implies that the so clauses are subordinate clauses, functioning as adverbials, rather than independent clauses standing on their own. (One would never say something like, *"You mother enrolled you in the pre-Academy program for she wanted you to have a little direction, not for she wanted you to have a reason to go become some half-cocked vagabond on Earth.")

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