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I've encountered (in songs, mostly) the phrase "I love you so". I understand what it means, but I can't make grammatical sense of it. It's very different in meaning from "I think so" or "I told you so".

  • Is it a contraction of "I love you so much"? Is it the other way around?

  • Can the construction be used with other verbs, and in which context and register? I've only seen it with the verb to love.

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    I wouldn't exactly say it's a contraction of the specific "full version" I love you so much. You could just as well say it came from I love you so dearly, or passionately, for example. But realistically, it's better not to imagine it's necessarily a shortened version of anything that specific. It's just that those are a few alternative words we could tack on the end to make the syntax and/or meaning clearer. – FumbleFingers Mar 19 at 15:57
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You have 90% answered your own question. 'So' is used as an adverb to mean 'so much', 'extremely', 'to such a degree', and dictionaries specifically mention 'so' used at the end of a sentence to mean 'to a very great degree'.

So, you can use it with a variety of nouns.

I hate you so.

I worry so.

I fear him so.

All of which said, in my experience it is a phrase which is, as you mentioned, more common in older songs and literature than in modern speech. To my mind it gives the impression of an Enid Blyton book from the 1930s.

George, you are beastly. I do hate you so!

Today I would expect the average youth to say:

George, you're an ass. I hate you so much!

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    You're right, but 1. I wasn't sure and 2. a fair 40% of my question was "Why just 'love'? Can it be used with other verbs, and if not why?" – Teleporting Goat Mar 19 at 15:59
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    Yeah - if not Enid Blyton, any poet (or any writer from more than a century or so ago). Without much (or similar) it's a somewhat dated / poetic / literary usage today. – FumbleFingers Mar 19 at 16:00
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    @TeleportingGoat I just meant your guess was almost right, and I'm very happy to give you the extra information you asked for. – fred2 Mar 19 at 16:00
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    @FumbleFingers - the extent to which I enjoyed writing that fake 1930s sentence is a clear sign of my encroaching decrepitude. I'm tempted to spend the rest of the day writing things like "I say Smitherington, you absolute rotter! Mr Tippins may forgive you, but I know I shan't." – fred2 Mar 19 at 16:05
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    Spoken (written?) like a true Edwardian toff! In my Blyton-reading youth, that use of shan't just implied "middle class" (to me, anyway), but today it seems almost "anachronistic". – FumbleFingers Mar 19 at 16:21
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I would say that this is an elision (not strictly speaking a contraction) of "I love you so much". That specific phrase has been used so often that it is an idiom of its own, and continues to be used when other parallel phrases such as "I hate you so" are far less common.

(I disagree with other answers that this sounds like something from the 1930s. Indeed I use the phrase "I love you so" rather frequently myself -- to my wife.)

By the way, a contraction is when one or more letters are omitted, as "can't" for "cannot" or "don't" for "do not". An elision is when a word or words are implied and omitted, or even an entire sentence or more. the verb for making an elision is "to elide".

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