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I have usually seen "a + adj + noun" instead of "adj + a + noun". In the sentence below, why the speaker used the latter? Did he want to transfer a special meaning e.g. emphasizing on the adjective, in this case the very long period that no one had expected? The situation was that the speaker went to the US for a meeting and suddenly he had to have an operation and stay a while in a hospital.

It's grand to be home again after so long an absence. [The Crown]

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I can think of no syntactical reason why it would be wrong.

We can say all of these:

✔ An extended absence.
✔ A long absence.
✔ So long an absence.
✔ An absence so long.

So long is acting as an adjective, and we can put adjectives in front of and behind nouns.

So, why should the following be wrong?

✘ (?) A so long absence.

This seems simply like one of those situations where it sounds wrong "because it sounds wrong" situations.

Even though I can think of no logical reason for the phrase to be wrong, it's just not used idiomatically.

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