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I was going through a GMAT question and stumbled across this question:

Never before had the gardening crew harvested so many carrots at once as it had in the fall of 2006.

The options contained:

D. as many carrots at once as it did in
E. so many carrots at once as it did in

I marked (E) which was wrong but I don't know what is the difference between idiom so ... as and as ... as. Can someone please explain?

1 Answer 1

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So ... as is a negative polarity item, so it is not normally used in positive statements.

Positive:

The gardening crew harvested as many carrots at once as it had in the fall of 2006.

Negative:

Never had the gardening crew harvested so/as many carrots at once as it had in the fall of 2006.

(Both are possible in a negative sentence.)

Many negative polarity items can also be used in questions (eg Have you got any paper?), but to my ear that doesn't work with so ... as.

Edit: I've just noticed that my answer disagrees with what you say the test requires: in my view, D and E are both good in that context.

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