Today I was reading in the Washington Post

"if you so choose" (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2018/01/01/your-guide-to-2018-movies-minus-the-superheroes-sequels-spin-offs-and-reboots/).

This sounds very strange to me (my mother tongue is german).

My question is: Is this just a kind of slang expression or is it a normal term?

Thanks alot in advance

  • 2
    It's normal, though formal.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 8:18
  • 2
    Common in the sense of being frequently used but definitely not 'common' in the sense of defining the speaker's social class!
    – BoldBen
    Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 14:41

1 Answer 1


Google returns over 5 million hits for the expression "if you so choose". At the very least, then, we can say that the expression is not uncommon.

Neither is it slang - which can be variously defined as referring to words or expressions that have a limited currency (such as sick = very good). Or to words generally used only by a particular group of people. In fact, the expression "if you so choose" is most likely to be found in formal written prose, as a quick scan of the Google hits will show.

In this context, so functions as an anaphoric (backward-pointing) or cataphoric (forward-pointing) reference to some other part of the sentence. See the two authentic examples from Google below:

  • This person will also coordinate care with specialists, or your home practitioner if you so (anaphoric) choose.

  • If you so (cataphoric) choose, you can also set aside a custodial IRA, which gets them started very early on saving for retirement.

In other contexts where so functions as a reference, it is usually used anaphorically (not cataphorically), and follows the verb rather than preceding it as in "if you so choose".

  • Why a safe workplace for women is a myth and will remain so!

  • The NFL could have sent that message loud and clear, but failed to do so this week with their light punishments for all parties involved.

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