We blogged about so, such, and too way back in 2014, but these commonly confused words have resurfaced in two of our Super Simple Questions lessons (What Size Is It? and Do You Like It?). These lessons contain examples of the adverbs so and too in context, so we thought it was a good time to review and compare these terms in more detail.
My students often got so and too confused. They'd use too incorrectly in a positive sentence (e.g., That movie was too good) or they'd use it when so would be more natural (e.g., The water was too cold, but I went swimming anyway). We hope that teaching these adverbs using the chart below will help your students keep so and too straight once and for all.
So Vs. Too
As mentioned above, students often use too incorrectly for positive situations. I’ve found it helpful to explain what the meaning with too would actually suggest. It’s usually illogical. For example:
- The movie was too good means that you were enjoying the movie so much that you couldn’t stand it and had to leave before it was over. This doesn't really make sense!
- The cake was too delicious means that you took a bite of cake and decided you couldn’t eat it because it tasted too good. Strange, right?
If you have higher-level learners, you could point out that we can use too in positive sentences for emphasis, if we stress too and the "excessive" meaning is clear. Tell students to think of the meaning as "so much that I could barely stand it."
- You are too funny!
- He is way too kind!
Too + adjective is often followed by an infinitive verb (to + base verb).
- The test was too difficult to finish.
- The pizza was too hot to eat.
- The assignment took too long to complete on time.
Note that so and too have many other purposes and functions in English. Check a dictionary for a list of all possible meanings and uses.