I'm trying to think about "to" and "so that" when describing means and purposes and have come across this following problem.

I feel like the following sentence is pretty natural.

"You have to try hard to succeed."

Means: Try hard.
Result: Succeed.

But although the following sentence adheres to the same structure and usage, it feels quite odd.

"I'm trying to do all my work now to go home early."

Means: Do all the work now.
Result: Go home early.

When I ask friends if this sounds natural to them, they all unknowingly convert the sentence to...

"I'm trying to do all my work now so that I can go home early."

Means: Do all the work now.
Result: Go home early.

On the other hand, using "to" feels much more natural in this sentence, which I feel is similar to the previous problematic sentence:

"I can't believe you spent so much money to impress that girl."

Means: Spending a lot of money.
Result: Impressing that girl

My questions are:

  1. Is that sentence which I feel to be odd grammatically acceptable?
  2. Why is it that "so that" so naturally replaces to in the sentence?
  3. Why does "to" feel more natural in the final sentence, whereas it felt odd in the previous sentence?

Answers to even one of these questions are appreciated.

  • All 3 sentences are 'grammatically acceptable' -- it seems to me a fine difference between (emphasising) purpose and outcome, where the use of 'to' suggests an explicit means to a purpose as in you must study hard to pass (for the purpose of passing) this test whereas the use of 'so that' places a subtly different emphasis on outcome as in make it a habit to save money so that you can provide for your children's education -- thus we might use 'to' to stress the means/purpose & when the result is sought to be emphasised, 'so that' might sound a more 'natural' construction. Jun 12, 2017 at 19:53
  • In "You have to try hard to succeed", the first "to", the one you put in bold type, seems to be just an infinitive marker, not an indication of means or purpose. The second "to" indicates purpose. Mar 24, 2018 at 4:04

1 Answer 1


So that does not replace to. Rather, so that I can replaces to. Another option would be I'm trying to do all my work now in order to go home early and that would suffer the same problem: I'm trying to do all my work now is unidiomatic. Strictly, it should be I'm trying to get all my work done now… which seems trivial yet is very different. I… spent… money to impress that girl could as easily be … in order to impress that girl or … so that I could impress that girl

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.