I had an english exam (multiple choice) recently and there was a question which was something like this:

A. He was so tired that he couldn’t do the homework

B. He was too tired that he couldn’t do the homework



I had to choose the answer which is grammatically correct, the answer that my school marked was A, however I think both A and B sound natural.

Do you agree?

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No, I don’t agree that both sound natural.

The natural pairings are:

  • so [adjective] that [independent clause]; and
  • too [adjective] to [verb phrase].


  • He was so tired that he fell asleep on the train.
  • She was too tired to care.

The quote in your question matches the so ...that pattern, not the too ... to pattern.

  • 1
    Totally agree. "too...that..." really hurts my ears. Gave an "arrow up" ;) – virolino Feb 1 at 13:01
  • Thanks virolino! Thanks for the formatting as well, @M.A.R., though I reverted to Rev 2 because I try to keep block quotes for direct quotes on ELL (& ELU). – Lawrence Feb 1 at 13:52

A. He was so tired that he couldn’t do the homework.

B. He was too tired that he couldn’t do the homework.

It's all about 'licensing', the specific requiring or permitting of complements.

The that clauses here are called 'indirect complements' because although they follow the adjective "tired" in head position, it is not the head that licences them, but the adverb that modifies "tired".

In A. the adverb "so" licenses the complement clause and is fine. But "too" doesn't licence declarative content clause like this, so B. is ungrammatical. Note, though, that "too" can license infinitivals: He was too tired to do the homework.


Your school marked the right answer. As you have already been told, "so that" is used to introduce a clause of purpose. B would be correct if it were

He was too tired to do his homework.

  • But there is no so that and no clause of purpose in the example given. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 1 at 15:45

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