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I have a question about the conjunction so.

ABeka, which is an advanced homeschool curriculum, classifies the conjunction so as a subordinating conjunction. The book states that it is used to join clauses of unequal grammatical rank.

Other sources list so as a coordinating conjunction. I need to know which one it is.

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    You’re laboring under the misunderstanding that a word “is” something or other as far as parts of speech go. This is a self-defeating myth. See Weird Coordinating Conjunctions: Yet, For, and So.
    – tchrist
    Aug 27, 2015 at 13:48
  • "so" can often be paraphrased with "and consequently", and when it can, because "and" is a coordinating conjunction, so is "so".
    – Greg Lee
    Aug 29, 2015 at 21:05
  • It is a bootless and unrewarding task to search authorities for grammatical information. They will always disagree, and they are mostly wrong. Instead, if you care which one it is, produce a test to distinguish between the possibilities; if you can't, you won't get any benefit from an answer to the question, because you won't understand it. Sep 28, 2015 at 23:58
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    @JohnLawler So how can one go about learning grammar? This is something I'm noticing more and more lately...everyone has an opinion, "expert" websites have conflicting info, and unless one is an expert to begin with, understanding the answers is not always possible. Sep 29, 2015 at 2:58
  • The important thing is to understand a clause with "so". You don't need much grammar in order to understand a conjunction as "so". The dictionary gives you more help.
    – rogermue
    Feb 26, 2016 at 11:19

1 Answer 1

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So is primarily used in writing as a coordinating conjunction, whereas the phrase "so that" is generally used as a subordinating conjunction.

A coordinating conjunction, according to englishclub.com:

joins parts of a sentence (for example words or independent clauses) that are grammatically equal or similar. A coordinating conjunction shows that the elements it joins are similar in importance and structure

englishclub lists seven coordinating conjunctions:

and, but, or, nor, for, yet, so

Examples of a coordinating conjunction using so:

"She is kind so she helps people." "I want to work as an interpreter in the future, so I am studying Russian at university."

In these cases, both parts of the sentence which are joined are grammatically equal or similar in importance and structure, and one is not necessarily dependent on the other one.

whereas a subordinating conjunction:

joins a subordinate (dependent) clause to a main (independent) clause

Here are some common subordinating conjunctions as well:

after, although, as, as if, as long as, as though, because, before, even if, even though, if, if only, in order that, now that, once, rather than, since, so that, than, that, though, till, unless, until, when, whenever, where, whereas, wherever, while

In short, use so primarily as a coordinating conjunction, and the phrase so that as a subordinate conjunction and you'll be fine.

Some helpful sites just for good measure: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/conjunctions.htm https://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/grammar_subordinate.html http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/subordinateclause.htm

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  • That example of so as a subordinating conjunction is incorrect. There so is an adverb setting up a result clause; an omitted that is the conjunction.
    – Anonym
    Aug 27, 2015 at 22:40
  • My understanding was that it wasn't a wholly correct use of so as a subordinating conjunction, which Is why I mentioned that the register was strange anyway and you're better off considering so as a coordinating conjunction and using the phrase "so that" as a subordinate conjunction. I can correct for further clarification however.
    – Cole
    Aug 28, 2015 at 13:08
  • I'm pretty sure that your example, "She is kind so she helps people", needs the comma before so. There is always a comma before a coordinating conjunction; so is separating two independent clauses. It is no different from the following example with the interpreter.
    – Daniel
    Dec 28, 2015 at 7:34

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