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Here is the context:

And then there is the argument that using such a destructive weapon was morally reprehensible because it was so destructive as to be qualitatively different from other weapons.

It is from Crash Course US history. It is at 10 minute and 40 second. I cannot see how as to be fits there, and because of it I cannot understand what the host means by the sentence. Does he mean it was so destructive because it was qualitatively different?

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Consider:

The ladder was so rickety as to be unsafe.

The pattern {noun} BE so {adjective-phrase1} as to be {adjective-phrase2} is used to present a situation where {noun}'s degree of {adjective1} meets or exceeds the threshold necessary for {adjective2} to be predicated of it.

The bread was so stale as to be inedible.

The coffee was so bitter as to be undrinkable.

The venture was so risky as to be untenable.

You can also substitute a noun-phrase for adjective-phrase2:

He was so drunk as to be a deadly risk behind the steering wheel.

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  • Can I substitute the word "as" with "that" there. For example: "The ladder was so rickety that it was unsafe." Does this sentence sound more natural than your example? – Dmytro O'Hope Nov 30 '18 at 14:43
  • @DmytroO'Hope Both are idiomatic. The that-clause version is conversational; the as to be version tends to be used outside of conversational contexts, at least in AmE. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 30 '18 at 16:12

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