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Going through customs to leave a country can sometimes be very frustrating. First she was asked why she was not rolling her carryon. The handle got stuck when she got off the car so she had been forced to open the suitcase to maneuver the handle back to the suitcase.

Can so express a reason and used as "because". In this passage first she had been forced to open the suit case (past perfect) and then the handle got stuck (past simple). The handle got stuck because or after she had been forced to open suitcase.

I really thought and still think that so express(ed) always a result!

My car is broken so I am going to the garage

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The words "so" and "because" are not interchangeable as they have different meaning and usage. Both are used as a conjunction to join clauses which could include an action and related statement, but it depends on whether you are stating a reason or a cause.

"Because" is used when you are specifying a cause for something. There is even a clue in the word - "be-cause". "So" is a little different because it literally means "therefore". It joins two clauses that follow on from one another logically and that could include a reason for the action, for example:

I am going to the garage so I can get my car repaired.

Getting your car repaired is the reason you are going to the garage, but it is not the cause. The cause is that your car is broken. One logically follows from the other.

A cause would usually be something that has happened in the past or is inevitable, for example:

I went to the hospital because I broke my leg. (past cause)

I have to renew my passport because it expires next month. (future cause)

But a reason is more your motivation for doing something rather than something inevitable.

I have to renew my passport so I can go abroad next year.

So in answer to your question "can "so" express a reason not a result?", "so" always expresses a reason, but not a cause. In your example of the suitcase handle getting stuck it sounds like the action of having to open the case to adjust the handle was a result of the handle previously getting stuck, so the former statement is logically the cause of the latter, and "so" is appropriate. It is coincidental that in this particular sentence you could replace the word with "because" and it remains grammatical, however the meaning would be completely changed and it would read that the latter statement was the cause of the former.

  • Notice that it's a bit difficult to follow your explanation knowing the definition of reason. reason = the CAUSE of an event dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/reason You're trying to establish a subjective distinction between them – RubioRic Feb 19 at 16:04
  • @RubioRic Well you're misquoting slightly. It is "a cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event". If you then go on to look up the individual definitions of "cause" and "justification" you'll find they are quite different. Look - questions here get closed if they can be looked up in a dictionary. That is the minimum research we expect people to do before asking a question. I feel you are just having a go at my answer because yours is patently incorrect, flies in the face of dictionary definitions and suggests a non-existent rule about the ordering of "reasons" and "actions". – Astralbee Feb 20 at 8:50
  • I think that the one "having a go at my answer" is you. I believe that you are the only one that have downvoted it. It seems that my answer is not so "patently" wrong for the community. I edited my answer after your comment to specify clearly that I wasn't defining a rule, I explicitly indicated that I was referencing the examples, that it can not be applied for every case. And whatever you write, it's difficult to differentiate between the concepts of reason and cause as I've pointed with references. – RubioRic Feb 20 at 9:07
  • @RubioRic Yes I did downvote it after I left a comment advising you it was wrong and you still didn't fix it. Your answer is wrong and could mislead people on this site for years to come. If you can point me to any reference that shows your imaginary "REASON so ACTION / ACTION because REASON" rule then I will reverse my vote and eat my words. – Astralbee Feb 20 at 9:11
  • I can't fix it. If I remove that I'll have to remove the entire post. What I don't understand is if my answer is so wrong why I got more upvotes than you? I need at least another reputed opinion backing yours to remove my answer. – RubioRic Feb 20 at 9:53
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No, so is not interchangeable with because in those sentences.

Their meanings are related and they both serve to mark a reason but let's look at your example.

My car is broken so I am going to the garage
I am going to the garage because my car is broken

Both sentences express exactly the same meaning but notice where is the reason located in each one.

REASON so ACTION
ACTION because REASON

In the quoted text, first the handle got stuck and that's the reason why later she was forced to open the suitcase.

She was forced to open the suitcase because previously the handle got stuck
The handle got stock previously so she was force to open the suitcase

[previously = when she got off the car]

Additional information about the use of so in the Cambridge Dictionary.

WARNING: I don't mean that you can ALWAYS, IN EVERY CASE, swap the order of the clauses and replace "so" by "because". I was just using the examples provided in the original question, simplifying them in an effort to explain the use of those conjuctions. Please check the provided link, there are cases like the one exposed by @Astralbee where you CAN NOT reorder the clauses in such way.

I've been pointed by @Astralbee that my reasoning is wrong but the Cambridge Dictionary entries related to so and therefore seems to back me up

so

and for that reason; therefore:

therefore

because of that; for that reason

Please, notice the presence of the determiner that, it refers to something that has been PREVIOUSLY mentioned. USUALLY when you use so, the reason, the cause, has appeared before. The quoted text of the OP fullfils this structure.

got stuck BEFORE had been opened

But let's check what because means

because

for the reason that

According to the dictionary, USUALLY the reason is explained AFTER because. All depends on where that is located in these definitions.

  • In that case why past perfect is used for had been forced, i see no reel reason if it happened after – user5577 Feb 19 at 7:52
  • all the sentence must be in past perfect because it is used as a flashback – user5577 Feb 19 at 7:52
  • @user5577 I've just written examples to answer this specific question about "so vs. because". I think that you have another question with the same text in relation with the use of past perfect. – RubioRic Feb 19 at 8:04
  • yes but I ve deleted this question because i thought had been forced was the first action as past perfect was used but now I am completly lost why past perfect was used if it came after – user5577 Feb 19 at 8:33
  • But past perfect does not point always the first action, you got to see the whole context. I think that in your context, you can use "was forced" to express exactly the same that "had been forced". Maybe you should ask again simplifying a bit "was forced vs had been forced" – RubioRic Feb 19 at 8:39

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