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"He cleaned the dishes so that he had clean plates."

"so that" seems to function as a conjunction, because "that he had clean plates" is not an independent clause; "he had clean plates" is. Is this true?

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  • 'so...that' is a correlative conjunction; it relates two clauses. – Ram Pillai Jan 28 at 8:05
  • @RamPillai No: the correlatives are items like "neither - nor" / "both - and" and the like. – BillJ Jan 28 at 8:25
  • No, "so that " is not a conjunction but two separate elements: the preposition "so" + the subordinator "that" introducing the subordinate content clause "that he had clean plates". The whole expression "so that he had clean plates" (a preposition phrase) then functions as an adjunct (either purpose or result). – BillJ Jan 28 at 9:19
  • @BillJ, I think I need to do a little more search and come back to you. To my knowledge, and in the specified example, 'so that' stands for a conjunction, connecting two clauses. I agree that it's not a correlative conj., but a conjunction. – Ram Pillai Jan 28 at 11:35
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He cleaned the dishes [so that he had clean plates].

Although "so + that" may appear to be a single grammatical unit, i.e. a conjunction, it is best analysed as two distinct elements: the preposition "so" + the subordinator "that" introducing the subordinate clause "that he had clean plates" functioning as complement of "so".

The whole expression "so that he had clean plates" is thus a preposition phrase functioning as an adjunct of purpose (or possibly result).

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