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 '15 at 15:13
  • 'so' is frowned upon as a word for emphasing – JMP Jul 8 '15 at 15:33
  • @JonMarkPerry Frowned on by whom? Where? Who says? – Dan Bron Jul 8 '15 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 '15 at 15:39

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.

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  • but there is no adverb following "so" in the clause, instead it is the verb "permeates" that follows. – AimForClarity Jul 8 '15 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 '15 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. – AimForClarity Jul 8 '15 at 18:22
  • Edited my answer for clarity and added citation. thanks for keeping me honest, AimForClarity. :) – oakfish56 Jul 8 '15 at 18:37
  • Just curious myself, :). – AimForClarity Jul 9 '15 at 20:07

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