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Earlier today I found myself with the desire to use the expression: "So I have learned" in response to someone as a confirmation of recently gained knowledge. My question for you all is whether or not this a correct use of that expression, or if it is even an expression at all.

The flow of the conversation was:

Me - "Hey, what's the best way to do X?"

Them - "I think you'll find it easiest by doing Y. This stuff is really tricky to get right."

Me - "So I have learned. Thanks!"

I could have sworn that "so I have learned" was a commonly used expression, but a quick google search does not yield much for examples like how I used it above, which has left me to wonder if this is even correct.

Thanks.

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    "So I've learned" or "So I've discovered" seem natural enough to me, but maybe younger people wouldn't express it like that. Jan 20, 2022 at 16:56
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    cf 'So I hear' / 'So it seems' .... Jan 20, 2022 at 17:04
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    The dialogue is rather odd. It starts with Me asking what is the best way to do X, then Them suggests doing Y. For Me to then reply So I have learned cannot mean that Me has just learned from Them's immediately preceding statement. If Me has learned this previously, why has Me asked the question in the first place? Individually each sentence is grammatically acceptable, but the whole passage is rather odd. Jan 20, 2022 at 17:09
  • @HighPerformanceMark - I take it that "Me" has already found out that the task they are asking advice about is a tricky one. Jan 20, 2022 at 17:39
  • Sounds fine to me, but contract I have: So I've learned. So I've heard. So I've gathered... Jan 20, 2022 at 17:56

5 Answers 5

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It’s not so much an expression as a common way to employ so with certain verbs:

so, adv. and conj.
4. a. Representing a word or phrase already employed: Of that nature or description; of or in that condition, etc.
Source: Oxford English Dictionary (login required)

This stuff is really tricky to get right.

So I’ve learned. (I’ve learned that this stuff is really tricky to get right.)

(Note that this is spoken English, so it’s natural to contract I have.)

Here are some examples from so i ‘ve VERB+ . at Corpus of Contemporary American English:

So I’ve heard.
So I’ve noticed.
So I’ve read.
So I’ve learned.
So I’ve gathered.
So I’ve found.
So I’ve seen.

Other tenses are often used:

So I hear.
So I heard.
So I noticed.
So I read.
So I learned.
So I gather.
So I gathered.

It’s common to see or here (or so i VERB+ .):

Or so I thought.
Or so I believed.
Or so I hope.
Or so I hoped.
Or so I recall.
Or so I recalled.
Or so I assume.
Or so I assumed.

So you’re okay.

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  • I think the OED should have the POS as 'pronoun' - they even say "Representing a word or phrase already employed" which is practically the definition of a pronoun.
    – Mitch
    Jan 21, 2022 at 14:26
  • @Mitch: Interesting — I didn't even pay attention to OED's adv. and conj. designation as I typed it. Also interesting to note: so is the object — not the subject — in all of the above. Jan 22, 2022 at 1:20
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Yes, saying "So I have learned" (or, the more common "So I've learned"--thanks, Kate Bunting) is perfectly acceptable.

Thinking about what a person could infer from hearing someone say "So I've learned," I came to the conclusion that the person saying "So I've learned" is evincing a certain emotion that is hard to characterize.

A substitute phrase for "So I've learned" could be "I've learned that the hard way" or "Been there, done that," followed by a facial expression that reflects a little embarrassment, regret, and possibly even some self-deprecating humor.

To ground your scenario a bit, I supplied your X and Y with a real-life situation; namely, replacing a watch battery (instead of paying a watch repair guy ten bucks).

Me - "Hey, what's the best way to replace a watch battery?"

Them - "I think you'll find it easiest by doing it yourself. Just be careful when removing the back of the watch! Oh, and remove the dead battery with a non-metallic item, such as a wooden or plastic toothpick. A metallic item could damage the innards of the watch. This stuff is really tricky to get right."

Me - "So I've learned!"

Them - "Let me guess, you damaged the back of the watch by using the wrong tool."

Me - "Yeah. Been there, done that!"

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As a native English speaker, I would say this is not common parlance and would not be received as such. That said, I think the meaning/intention of this phrase would be received fairly accurately.

"So I've heard" is common parlance, generally upon receiving a piece of information. You might just be getting your wires crossed

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  • Is what you're saying is that the contraction to "I've" is what is need to make this sound natural and that "I have" (in this particular context) is not common? Or is it that "So I have heard" by itself is uncommon and "So I've heard" is common?
    – Mitch
    Jan 20, 2022 at 18:46
  • No, although you are right to point out that 'So I have heard' would rarely be encountered, in my experience at least, vs 'So I've heard'. My point was that 'So {I've/ I have} learned' is not a common occurrence, but phonetically/situationally pretty similar to 'So {I've/ I have} heard', which might be the source of your confusion. Jan 21, 2022 at 11:02
  • Oh haha I didn't even register the difference 'heard' and 'learned' which may be a sign that they feel almost identical to me at least in intention and acceptability.
    – Mitch
    Jan 21, 2022 at 14:23
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Your proposed phrase would work fine IF you had learned it prior to the sample dialogue. But in that case you wouldn't be asking! So it sounds weird in this context.

If you want to show that you were open to learning something new, and now you understand, here are a couple natural ways of expressing this:

Ah, I see.

Okay, got it. (Some people say, "Gotcha" but that could mean something a bit different so I don't recommend it.)

Duly noted. (This one might come across a bit bemused so it might be a fun one to choose.)

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    This is what the speaker learned prior: This stuff is really tricky to get right. That is why the speaker is now asking: Hey, what's the best way to do X? Jan 21, 2022 at 2:23
  • @TinfoilHat - I think that my approach is not tricky, will allow the OP to feel more confident, and is more effective. Call it a work-around if you like. Jan 21, 2022 at 16:44
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What is the question?

The question is about the expression “So I have learned”. As many have commented, ‘I have’ would sound unnatural in the informal speech (“Hey…”) of the example, so I shall consider the rephrased expression “So I’ve learned”.

One reason my initial answer received several downvotes is, I believe, because I interpreted the example conversation in a different manner to others. @HighPerformanceMark had actually commented on problems with the example. I have therefore rewritten my answer to consider different possible interpretations of the question. The ambiguity is as follows:

WHAT STATEMENT IS THIS A RESPONSE TO?

I think you’ll find it easiest by doing Y.

or

This stuff is really tricky to get right.

WHAT IS MEANT BY LEARNED?

Acquired knowledge first hand (e.g. I learned to drive a car.)

or

Acquired information second hand (e.g. I learned that she was married.)

WHAT DOES THE POSTER WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE EXPRESSION?

Is it correct English?

or

Is it a commonly-used expression?

1. Response to “This stuff is really tricky…”

“So I’ve learned” would be acceptable if it were clearly a response to this statement and the meaning was that the speaker had discovered that the task was difficult from trying to perform it himself. Unambiguous and more common alternatives would be:

“So I discovered/found out”

or, using learned in the second sense

“Yes, I learned that the hard way!”

2. Response to “I think you’ll find it easiest by doing Y”

I do not think “So I’ve learned” would be a natural response to this in either case.

If the speaker wished to affirm that he had received the same information from other sources such a response would imply that he had asked how to perform the task because he was unsure whether this information was correct. In this case ‘learned’ would certainly sound too educational, and a more colloquial expression starting with “So”

“So I’ve been told”

conveys either doubt or an unpleasant “know that already” smart-Alec attitude. (The very common “So they say” even more so).To avoid that, something like

“That’s what I’ve been told”

avoids the implication of possible doubt.

If the information had been received in a formal environment, but not in a practical manner, something like

“That’s what they told (or taught) us in the course (etc.)”

takes the emphasis off “me”, conveys credit to the training.

Conclusion and Advice

The expression is undoubtedly grammatical English, but certainly not as commonly used as the alternatives I have suggested, replacing “So” and “learned”.

Whether the expression sounds natural depends on what it is meant to convey (and in what social and regional environment). Answers here on the question of whether or not something sounds natural are generally subjective (on first reading, the phrase “Thus spake Zarathusta” came to mind in my case). To obtain an objective answer listen: do you ever hear the expression used in conversation? Do this rather than try to introduce an expression you learned somewhere just because it appeals to you.

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