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Getting Smarter through Language

Difference between So, Very, and Too

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Is the person in the picture so strong, very strong, or too strong?

The adverbs “so,” “very,” and “too” are used to intensify the meaning of adjectives and adverbs. “So” and “very” have similar meanings, but they are used differently in formal and informal English.

“Too” has a different meaning. People sometimes use it to mean “very,” but only in a very specific situation. Let’s examine how to use these words in formal and informal English.

Video Activity

Watch How to use so, very, and too and take good study notes.

Note. The video supports the information on this page. It is recommended you should study the page and watch the video in any order.

Using “So” and “Very”

In informal, everyday English, people often use “so” meaning “very.” It is used to intensify the meaning of another word.

When “so” is used this way, it should always be replaced by “very” in formal, written English.

Example sentences using so and very

Informal: Thank you so much!

Formal: Thank you very much.

Informal: Wow! This building is so tall!

Formal: This building is very tall.

Informal: This movie is so scary!

Formal: This movie is very scary.

Informal: I’m so tired today!

Formal: I am very tired today.

Informal: This cake is so sweet!

Formal: This cake is very sweet.

Using “Too”

“Too” also intensifies the adjective or adverb that follows it, but it expresses the idea that something is more than you wanted, more than the right amount, or excessive

Examples using so and very

This movie is too scary. I can’t watch it anymore.

I’m too tired to go out to eat. Let’s stay home.

This cake is too sweet. I can’t eat it.

A Special Use of “Too”

People sometimes use “too” to mean “very” in a very specific situation, that is when expressing thanks.

You should be careful when using it this way. Be sure that the situation shows that you do not mean “excessively” but “very.” Otherwise, you may insult someone.

Examples using “too” to mean “very” to express thanks

(Someone gives you a gift)

— Wow! Thank you very much. You’re too nice!

(Someone spends a long time explaining something to you)

— Thank you for your time. You’re too patient.

(Someone does you a big favor)

— Thank you! You’re too kind.

In each of the above examples, you can replace too with very:

— ... You’re very nice!

— ... You’re very patient.

— ... You’re very kind.

Practice

Complete this practice to check your understanding of this lesson.