He paused; then went on: I don't know that the commanding officer delved so deep as that into his feelings. But he did suffer from them—a sort of disenchanted sadness. It is possible, even, that he suspected himself of folly. Man is various. But he had no time for much introspection, because from the southwest a wall of fog had advanced upon his ship. Great convolutions of vapours flew over, swirling about masts and funnel, which looked as if they were beginning to melt. Then they vanished.

This is a paragraph excerpted from a short story by Joseph Conrad: Tha Tale. At first glimpse, I thought it is a plain "so adjective as" comparison sentence. I, however, got lost where "that" popped up.

1) I cannot understand why there is "that" right after "as", and what its grammatical function is.

2) I wonder what this sentence means. Does this mean that the narrator(I) doesn't know that the commanding officer delved so deep into something as the commanding officer delved deep into his feelings?

1 Answer 1


"That" refers back to something previously mentioned before your quotation begins.

The quote comes from The Tale by Joseph Conrad. Prior to your quotation, it speaks of "the murderous stealthiness of methods and the atrocious callousness of complicities that seemed to taint the very source of men's deep emotions and noblest activities; to corrupt their imagination which builds up the final conceptions of life and death."

So, by saying "I don't know that the commanding officer delved so deep as that into his feelings", he is saying that he does not think the officer delved as deep so as to consider the "deep emotions and noblest activities" that they had just spoken of.

  • In most contexts, as that probably wouldn't be included. The contextually-relevant "level of depth" is already referred back to by so, making it redundant. I think the net effect of including it is to provide emphasis (speaker implies "that" level is very deep). Or maybe it just makes it "easier" to convey that emphasis by placing heavy stress on the word that - which of course can equally be done by stressing so deep[ly] while discarding as that. Dec 3, 2019 at 13:34
  • @FumbleFingers I would say "as deep as that", but "so deep" sounds like an Americanism so I'm ignoring that. It is a quotation from a published work, so I've just focused on the explanation rather than the grammar.
    – Astralbee
    Dec 3, 2019 at 13:43
  • I don't see much difference between BrE "would not go so / as far" and the AmE equivalent. Dec 3, 2019 at 13:57

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