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  1. It's a nice book but it's 'too' expensive. I'm not going to buy it.

  2. I would buy it if it weren't 'so' expensive.

These are from the book 'English Grammar in Use'. So, I'm sure that these are the perfect sentences. However, is it okay to use 'so' rather than 'too' in the first sentence and 'too' rather than 'so' in the second one?

marked as duplicate by AmE speaker, JonMark Perry, Sven Yargs, Scott, J. Taylor Jul 27 '18 at 22:25

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I've taken this explanation from here

Let's start by looking at so first:

So is used before an adjective for emphasis (to make the statement stronger).

Let’s compare these sentences:

so + adjective

The soup is hot. The soup is so hot.

Let's now look at too:

John is too tall.

Too is used for emphasis also, but it means ‘more than needed’ or ‘more than enough.’

It is used to show that something is bad (negative) or that something is over the desired limit.

Take a look at these ideas:

John is so tall. He plays basketball well. (His tallness is not a bad thing)

John is too tall. He cannot sit comfortably on an airplane. (His tallness is a bad thing)

The second sentence means that he is very tall and that is a bad thing. His height is over the limit. He is 2 meters tall. Therefore he cannot fit on an airplane. John is too tall.

Following these rules, we still come across sentences that are similar in meaning. For example:

It’s so hot today. Let’s stay inside. (very hot)

It’s too hot today. Let’s stay inside. (there is too much heat so we cannot go outside)

Both of these sentences are correct and work well in this situation. In many situations though, one word is more suitable than the other. Look at this example:

The camera was ___ expensive, but I bought it.

The camera was ___ expensive. I didn’t buy it.

What’s the answer for #1?

So is the best answer. Why? If it were too expensive, then you couldn’t have bought it. It would be over the limit of the money you had (unless you had a credit card). The camera was so expensive (very expensive), but you bought it. The price was within your limits.

What’s the answer for #2?

Too. The price was too high. You didn’t have enough money. Therefore, you could not buy it. You could use ‘so’ here to mean it was very expensive. But if you want to express that the price was higher than you could afford, use too expensive.

In your examples

  1. It's a nice book but it's 'too' expensive. I'm not going to buy it.

  2. I would buy it if it weren't 'so' expensive."

you are expressing that

  1. you feel the price of the book is more than you can afford or want to pay for it.
  2. you would buy the book if you could afford it or if or it fitted your perception of value for money.

too vs. so

  • 1
    Not sure why someone downvoted this answer. It seems pretty thoughtful, practical, and relevant. – Sven Yargs Jul 25 '18 at 18:15

'So' is used to emphasise an adjective in a grammatically negative sentence. '...it weren't so expensive..' ('weren't' is negative) 'Too' is used to emphasise adjectives as well but it always gives the sense that you are not happy or are disappointed. The actual grammar of the sentence is positive. It is too expensive. ('is' is positive)

If I weren't so far away, I would convince you to throw 'Grammar in Use' into the trash. But I am too far away. ;-)

  • 'Too' gives the sense that the quality indicated by the adjective is held to an unacceptable level: if the book is too expensive you feel you cannot afford it. – Kate Bunting Apr 25 '18 at 8:20
  • 1
    'So' is used to emphasise an adjective in a grammatically negative sentence. Like: your answer is so good, I am tempted to vote for it. :-) – user184130 Jul 24 '18 at 13:21
  • While 'so' is sometimes used for emphasis, its more correct meaning is "at a level". So "if it were not so expensive" means "if it were not as expensive as it is". It's a slightly different meaning from "if it were not expensive". – DJClayworth Jul 24 '18 at 13:26
  • “So” is not only used in a negative sense (“It is so expensive!”). And “too” isn’t only used in the way you described. Where did you come up with this?! – user305707 Jul 24 '18 at 14:23

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