SO versus TOO: What’s the same? What’s different?

Welcome to the beginning of clarity on a topic that confuses many, many people.  

so and too

markconfusedYou are definitely not alone if this is what you look like when trying to understand the similarities  and differences between “so” and “too” and understand how to use the words correctly.

So, allow me to help you understand…

What’s the same?

*Both “so”and “too”are used to add an additional agreement clause in conversations when referring to a positive statement. When we use “so”and “too”, it’s like saying, “I agree with you!” These additional agreement statements avoid repetition of the same words while speaking, and are incredibly common in conversation.
There are some variations in the structure, so pay attention to the examples below.

Paulo says, “I am a chef.”  Paulo’s colleague, Adam, can reply: “I am too.” or “So am I.”

Jennifer says, “I love teaching English!”  Amber and Holly agree, so they each can say: “I do too!” or “So do I!”

Lucy tells her new friend, “I have lived in Australia.” Her new friend, who has also lived there, can respond: “I have too.” or “So have I.”

Notice that the only difference between “so”and “too” is the placement (“so”= beginning & “too”= end). The verb used in the additional agreement clause will depend on the auxiliary used in the main sentence. Use the same auxiliary (be, has/have, modals) as the main clause in your additional statement. If there is no auxiliary verb, use the correct form of “do”.

*Both “so” and “too” are adverbs, which means they are used to modify or describe other adverbs, adjectives, verbs, or sentences. The descriptions they give, however, are very different…..

What’s different?

*While it is true that “so” and “too” both mean very or extremely, I am putting this under a difference because of the overall connotation (meaning) that these two words give. In general, we use the word “too” to indicate something negative. We use it to say that an adjective or an adverb is excessive, or more than what is wanted/needed/desired/possible. When something is more than what we want or is possible, it becomes something negative because it may be more than we can handle, or it may go beyond something we can control. Let’s take a look at some examples to clarify:

ADJECTIVES: cold, challenging
-It is so cold today that I had to wear a scarf.   (It’s cold, but tolerable with a scarf)
-It is too cold today, I would rather stay inside. (It’s cold to the point that I cannot tolerate being outside)
-That test was so challenging today. I studied, though, so I think I’ll pass. (Even though it was challenging, I think I did well)
-That test was too challenging today. Even though I studied, I don’t think I’ll pass. (Even though I studied, it was challenging to the point that I don’t think I did well)

ADVERBS: quickly, harshly (cruelly, severely)
-You finished your homework so quickly!  (Perhaps you understood it well. This could be a praise)
-You finished your homework too quickly!  (It was quicker than what is expected, so perhaps there are some errors or problems with the work. Definitely not a praise)
-You spoke so harshly to her, maybe you should apologize. (The degree of harshness (cruelty) was high, it might warrant an apology)
-You spoke too harshly to her, you need to apologize (The degree of harshness (cruelty) was higher/more extreme than what is appropriate, so an apology is absolutely necessary)

NOTE: sometimes when “too” is placed in front of a very positive adjective (nice, kind, beautiful), it can indicate something positive; however, it is still emphasizing that it is more than what would be expected.

“You are too kind.” →  You are very kind, kinder than what I would expect from you or another person

*When used before a verb, the words “so” and “too” also take on very different meanings. The word “too” is going to mean ‘as well’, and “so” is going to give added emphasis or force meaning ‘without a doubt’ (very)

I too wanted to go with them. (I wanted to go with them too. I wanted to go with them as well.)

I so wanted to go with them. (I really wanted to go. I wanted to go with them very much/without a doubt).

Do you have any questions? Feel free to add them below, in the comment section, and I’ll give you additional help or another example. Try creating some of your own sentence examples for practice, and make sure you use this new information in your writing and conversations this week! If you know someone studying English, who loves English, or might benefit from this article/blog, please share the link or use the buttons below! Thanks, and as always…

Happy Studying! ♥