So that

Expressing Purpose vs. Cause-Effect

Meteor Shower
 

 

So — Purpose vs. Effect

SO THAT — PURPOSE

We use so that  to add a clause stating purpose or intent. Can or could is often used in a purpose clause. That is often omitted in speech but not in writing.

ACTION TAKEN PURPOSE

We stayed out all night

so that we could watch a meteor storm.¹

We took some blankets

so (that) we could keep warm.

 

SO THAT  — EFFECT

We use so (that) to add a clause stating result (effect). Or use so… that to emphasize the source of a particular effect. Be able to is often used in the result clause.

ACTION TAKEN RESULT

We stayed up late,

so we were able to see the meteor storm as it passed.²

We took so many blankets
          emphasis

that we kept warm all night.

 

 

¹could – is used to state a potential, later activity
²were able to – is used for a single past event (not could)

Cause and Result (Huddleston 726-7)

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that

Expressions for Purpose

 

 

 

So that vs. other expressions

SO THAT

no commaSo that connects a clause stating purpose to a clause giving a particular action. The that-clause often includes a modal — can, could, may, might, etc.

ACTION TAKEN PURPOSE
  THAT + MODAL

We take blankets

so that we can keep warm.

We took blankets

so (that) we could keep warm.

We take blankets

in order that we might keep warm. 

We take blankets

that we may keep warm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

OTHER EXPRESSIONS

Other expressions, mostly prepositional phrases, are followed by gerund or infinitive clauses (nonfinite clause). 

ACTION TAKEN PURPOSE
  INFINITIVE CLAUSE

We take blankets

to keep warm. 

 

so as to keep warm. 

 

in order to keep warm. 

 

GERUND CLAUSE

with a view to keeping warm.

 

 


with the intent of
keeping warm.

 


for the purpose of
keeping warm.

 

NOUN PHRASE

for warmth. (noun phrase)

 

keep warm (expression) – stay or remain warm; not become cold

PPs with clausal complements & NP complements (Huddleston 727)

Also see Stating Purpose (in order to) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that

Expressions for Effect  (Result)

 

 

 

So with clausal complements

SO THAT

commaSo that also joins a clause stating an effect for the action in the first clause. The clauses are separated by a comma.

ACTION TAKEN EFFECT

We took blankets,

so (that) we weren't cold.

 

so we weren't cold.

 

 

 

 

OTHER EXPRESSIONS

Other expressions (linking adverbs) join a second clause with an effect of the action in the first clause. The expressions below relate the meaning of effect (result).

ACTION TAKEN EFFECT

We took blankets

As a result, we weren't cold.

 

Consequently, we weren't cold. 

 

For this reason, we weren't cold. 

 

Therefore, we weren't cold. 

 

keep warm (expression) – stay or remain warm; not become cold

See Cause-Effect,   Because / of 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So

Punctuation

 

 

 

Punctuation

PURPOSE

no commaWhen the meaning of so is purpose, use no comma. (So is a preposition complemented by a that-clause.)

baby reaching for gumballThe baby pulled the lever so he could get some candy.

 

 

EFFECT

commaWhen the meaning of so is result, separate the clauses with a comma.  (So is a coordinating conjunction which links two independent clauses.)

baby cryingThe baby cried, so his mother gave him some candy.

 

 

 

Also see: Stating Purpose ;   FANBOYS  (punctuation)
See Grammar Notes below for parts of speech.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So

Expressions

 

 

 

So and So!  

SO IN A SENTENCE

SO 

It's so cold today.  I'm so glad to meet you.  (very)

SO

I want it so.  (in this way)

SO

He wants it and so do I.  (in the same way)

SO-SO

I'm feeling so-so today. (mediocre)

SO

I was so right there! (truly, indeed)

SO

Ten or so are here. (approximately)

SO!

So!  You took the last piece. (exclamation of shock or discovery)
 

SO IN A SENTENCE

SO  

 

He left, so I left too. (effect – comma)

SO THAT

I left so that I could catch a bus. (purpose)

SO…THAT

It was so hot that the candles melted. (result)

SO TO SPEAK

He was pulling my leg, so to speak. (figuratively speaking)

SO MANY

We bought so many oranges. (quantity)

SO AS

We laughed so as to make light of the situation. (for the purpose of)

SO AS

So what?  (Who cares? or What's the point?)

 

Related page:  so much / so many

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

*He didn't give me his telephone number so I couldn't call him

(Unclear meaning)

He didn't give me his telephone number.  So I looked it up.

(Not incorrect, but not always acceptable)

SOLUTION

Was he unable to call or blocked from calling?
He didn't give me his telephone number, so I couldn't call him.
(With a comma, it means "unable to call".)

He didn't give me his telephone number  so that I couldn't call him.
(Without a comma, it means "blocked or stopped from calling".)

He didn't give me his telephone number, so I looked looked it up. 

More commonly, so occurs between two independent clauses as a coordinating conjunction. Similarly and and but, may not be preferred at the beginning of a sentence by an instructor or employer, even though there is no grammatical rule supporting this prohibition. See Beginning with And.

 

 

*Yellow highlighting marks examples of incorrect usage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grammar Notes

Traditional Grammar and Linguistic Description

Advanced

 

 

 

Traditional and Linguistic Descriptions

TRADITIONAL GRAMMAR LINGUISTIC DESCRIPTION
SO THAT — PURPOSE SO THAT — PURPOSE

No specific term is given for the so that (purpose) structure. The general term used in Chapter 19 is connective. A clause that can answer a "Why?" question is an adverbial.
Why did you bring a blank?  I brought it so that we could keep warm.   (Azar 19-5)

so (that), so as 
 — prepositional phrase. "PPs with clausal complements & NP complements" (Huddleston 8 §12.2)
— ("these structures" – term not mentioned) (Swan 543)
 

SO…THAT — CAUSE-EFFECT SO THAT — REASON

In the (cause-effect) structure, so (adj / adv) that , the general term used in Chapter 19 is connective. No specific term is mentioned in 19-4.  So is an adverb paired with a that-clause. 
Why did you need to bring a blanket? It was so cold that I had to bring a blanket.   (Azar 19-4) 

So is also a coordinating conjunction that joins two independent clauses, and expresses an cause-effect relationship. I was cold, so I put on my coat. (Azar 19-2) 

 

so (Adj / Adv) that
— degree adverb.  (Huddleston 6 §7.2, 11 §4.6) 
— degree adverb.  (Swan 538.4)

so, yet, however
connective adverb (yet, however) (Huddleston 6 §6,15 §2.9-10)
contrastive.linking adverb. (Biber  2.3.4, 7.14.3, 10.4.3.1)
adverb (Swan 49.3)

Categories:  NP –noun phrase; N – noun; VP – verb phrase; V – verb; Detdeterminer; PP – prepositional phrase; P – preposition; AdvP – adverb phrase; Adv – adverb; AdjP– adjective phrase; Adj – adjective; Subord – Subordinator;  Coord – Coordinator; Interj – Interjection

Functions: Subject:  Subject,   Predicate: Predicator (V) Complement:  elements required by the verb: object, indirect object, predicative complement  Adjuncts: (optional modifiers) Adj,  Adv

 

 

Resources

 

 

 

 

Practice1

Tracking Meteorites

path of a meteor
 

 

Read the Context

Scientists are studying meteorites. Their intent is to understand the bio-origins of the meteorites. The scientists look carefully at the composition of meteorites. The purpose is to learn about comets, exploding stars and other phenomena. Astronomers track where fragments fall. They do this in order to recover them. Astronomers photograph the paths of meteors in the sky. This is for the purpose of estimating where the meteor pieces will land.

Astronomers have recovered several meteorites in this manner. As a result, they now have a large collection of meteorites. Peter Jenkins, a NASA astronomer, saw a meteor streak across the sky one afternoon.

Consequently, he and his team spent a week looking for the fragments. His team found nothing. Therefore, they made an announcement and asked the public (people) to help search for meteorites in their backyards. Soon a woman called reporting that she had found a large black, metallic rock that had bounced off her roof. For this reason, the team went and checked out "the rock". It was, indeed, a meteorite that had hit her roof. She took a picture of it as a souvenir and then gave the meteorite to the astronomers to allow them to study it. Later, the team returned it to the woman for that reason that she wanted her insurance company to cover (pay for) the damage to her roof.

astronomers (n.) – scientists who study the cosmos  (comets, planets, stars, etc.)
bio-origin – biological origin, composition, what they come from

estimate (v.) – calculate, predict, an educated guess

fragments (n.) – pieces that break away from something larger

metallic (adj.) – having the appearance of metal

meteor (n.) – a small piece of a comet, asteroid, or exploding star that travels through the atmosphere of Earth

meteorite (n.) – a mass of stone or metal that has reached the earth from outer space; a fallen meteoroid.

path (n.) – the route, way, or track

phenomena (plural noun) – phenomenon, an amazing occurrence of nature

recover (v.) – find and collect

souvenir (n.) – something we buy or keep as a reminder of an event or special occasion

streak (v.) –make a long narrow mark (See picture above.)

team (n.) –  a group that works together, a team of scientists

track (v.) –  watch, follow where something goes  (with telescopes)

 

 

 

CometPurpose vs. Result

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking each "check" or the "check 1-10" button.

 

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