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Difference between So, Very, and Too

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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.

Activity

Video Activity

Watch How to use “so,” “very,” and “too” correctly on YouTube and take good study notes.

Although much of the focus in the video is on English-language learner, the information applies to learners of any language.

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’m 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

Example sentences using so and very

  • This movie is too scary. I can’t watch it anymore.
  • I’m to 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 someimtes 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.

Example sentences 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 a big favor) — Thank you! You’re too kind.

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

Practice

Based on this lesson and the video, complete each blank in the sentences below using so, very, or too, or least.

When you are finished, click “Answer.”

Note. Your answers will not be submitted. When you leave this page, they will be deleted.

1. Rings is a good movie, but it’s a little scary for me.

Rings is a verygood movie, but it’s a little too scary for me.

2. Indian food is tasty, but this dish is spicy! I cannot eat it.

Indian food is very tasty, but this dish is too spicy for me. I cannot eat it!

3. I wanted to go for a run in the park, but it’s cold today.

I wanted to go for a run in the park, but it’s too cold today.

(Very is also correct, but too expresses the impossibility of going for a run in the park because of the weather.)

4. It gets cold here in the winter. Sometimes it’s cold to be outside longer than 10 minutes.

It gets very cold here in the winter. Sometimes it’s too cold to be outside longer than 10 minutes.

5. This box is heavy, but John is a strong man, so he can carry it.

This box is very heavy, but John is a very strong man, so he can carry it.

6. Oh, wow! Look at those shoes. They’re expensive.

Informal: ...They’re so expensive.

Formal: ... They’re very expensive.

Note: “Too expensive” is also possible, but it changes the meaning of the sentence to “They're more expensive than they are really worth.

7. $1,000 for that suit is not much, but it’s expensive for me. I don’t have that much money!

$1,000 for that suit is not very much, but it’s too expensive for me.

Note: The context makes it clear that I cannot spend $1,000 on the suit even though it is worth that much money.

8. I can’t believe you bought me a new computer for my birthday. Thank you! You’re kind.

I can’t believe you bought me a new computer for my birthday. Thank you! You’re too kind!

The above is a special use of “too.” You can also say,
“... You’re very kind.”

9. John was driving fast for that road and had a serious accident.

John was driving too fast for that road and had a very serious accident.

Note: The context makes it that John was driving excessively fast for the road. On a different road, perhaps the same speed would be okay.

10. Karen speaks softly! It’s difficult to hear what she’s saying.

Informal: Karen speaks so softly! It’s so difficult to hear what she’s saying.

Formal: Karen speaks very softly! It’s very difficult to hear what she’s saying.

Also: Karen speaks too softly..., but the meaning changes slightly. It’s okay that she speaks softely, but she speaks excessively softly, so you cannot hear her.

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