A quick question. Is it possible to use 'so' for emphasis in the following sentence:

Indeed, the religious ethos so permeates the book

If so, should the following clause be a that-clause? '..so permeates the book that..'

Thank you!

  • Hmm. This is difficult, since it can read either as very formal or as very informal. Followed by a that-clause, it can only read as very formal.
    – Anonym
    Jul 8, 2015 at 15:13
  • 'so' is frowned upon as a word for emphasing
    – JMP
    Jul 8, 2015 at 15:33
  • @JonMarkPerry Frowned on by whom? Where? Who says?
    – Dan Bron
    Jul 8, 2015 at 15:37
  • @DanBron; my teachers always said it was a waste of a word, like 'nice' or 'sweet' as in 'my response was sweet'
    – JMP
    Jul 8, 2015 at 15:39

1 Answer 1


Yes, and yes. If you are going to use "so" in this manner, then it would be properly followed by a dependent "that" phrase that explains a consequence of the condition. In informal speaking as in "I could so eat an entire cake right now" I would argue that the speaker is merely skipping over an adverb for emphasis (e.g., "so easily", "so eagerly", "so quickly", etc.).

See definition of "so" here at Merriam Webster and note that using the word for emphasis is widely condemned but nonetheless standard English. Use 2b is what you are using, and has been in use for decades. Use 2e, which is my alternate example, is more recent and more informal.

  • but there is no adverb following "so" in the clause, instead it is the verb "permeates" that follows. Jul 8, 2015 at 18:15
  • Yes, I know. In Chris' sentence, a "that" phrase would need to be used. I only meant to give an example of when you would use "so" for emphasis in a different more informal sentence... in which case an adverb had been omitted.
    – oakfish56
    Jul 8, 2015 at 18:17
  • Ok, now I'm actually confused on how it is that "so permeates" works grammatically. i suppose it is in its adverbial sense: "to such a great extent." Although, its use to emphasize "permeates" in this context appears non-academic and non-formal. That's my intuitive feeling. Jul 8, 2015 at 18:22
  • Edited my answer for clarity and added citation. thanks for keeping me honest, AimForClarity. :)
    – oakfish56
    Jul 8, 2015 at 18:37
  • Just curious myself, :). Jul 9, 2015 at 20:07

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