Are the phrases “very well above,” “so well above,” and “so much above” correct? Example sentences:

  • The bridge is very well above us.

  • The bridge is so well above us!

  • The bridge is so much above us!

I know that we can say “well above” or “very much above.” I wonder if we can also say these phrases I provided. I feel the third one is okay, but I am less sure about the others especially the second one.

  • 4
    You've added a bounty to this question while there's already an answer based on both personal intuition and usage data. Can you tell us what's missing from randomhead's answer that would satisfy you? If I answered this question, I'd give very much the same answer
    – gotube
    Sep 20, 2022 at 15:07
  • Tips: The bridge is so far above us. His grades were well above average. They might very well be over our head but the lectures were interesting. Your expressions are best used with non-physical things.
    – Lambie
    Sep 24, 2022 at 19:34

3 Answers 3


Personally I would say well above and very much above and none of the other options. However, let us take a look at Google Ngrams:

Ngrams view of "so much above" and other options

It seems like in the past "so much above" was more common, with "very much above" a distant second. More recently, both uses have decreased significantly, though "so much above" has made a slight comeback. The other three options ("very above," "very well above," and "so well above") are all but nonexistent.

But if we add "well above" to the search:

Ngrams view as above, with "well above" added

It blows all the other uses out of the water in contemporary usage. Although it is declining, it is still an order of magnitude more common than the other two possibilities.

Edit to respond to your bounty: "The helicopter is so much above us" is not something a native speaker would say. Instead: "The helicopter is [so/very] high [above us]."
The "above us" would not really be necessary unless the speaker was themselves very high above the ground and wanted to emphasize that the helicopter was even higher than that.

  • 2
    This is a good example of why Google ngrams should not be used as the sole basis for an answer, because you can search the use of the term without context. While some of the phrases used here are definitely idiomatic, hence why they show up in literature, they are not idiomatic in the context of the OP's example. Just look at THIS ngram where I compare your result with "us" added on the end. It completely tanks. books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Astralbee
    Sep 24, 2022 at 18:47
  • @randomhead Thanks. Do you think “The helicopter is well above us” is also wrong? Sep 26, 2022 at 14:44
  • @FireandIce Not so much wrong as completely unidiomatic in terms of measuring height. We use the expression 'well clear' to mean something is sufficiently far away from us, but that is relative and not a comment on the measurable distance. "Well above us" could potentially be used like that, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it is very high, or very far away.
    – Astralbee
    Sep 27, 2022 at 7:48

I would not use any of your suggestions in the context in which you are proposing.

"Well above" is something native speakers say when talking about gradations - for example, "his reading skills are well above average".

In a context like your example where you are talking about height, we would say something is "high above", or possibly "far above".

The bridge is high above us.

  • You can see examples of “well” being used in the way I am proposing under the third definition here. Sep 26, 2022 at 14:39
  • @FireandIce not sure where you're directing me to, but I have only seen wrong examples on this page. It's the context - we say 'well above' in terms of gradation, but it isn't idiomatic in terms of height, which all your examples are about.
    – Astralbee
    Sep 27, 2022 at 7:42

In informal speech, I would most often use way:

The helicopter is way above us.

The bridge is way up high.

Our car is way on the other side of the parking lot.

It might be more of an American English usage, I'm not sure.

  • Thank you. I am particularly learning American English actually. Sep 26, 2022 at 14:42
  • Do you agree that “well above” is not used in a context where we are talking about physical space like in “The bridge is well above us” and it can only be used in sentences like “His grades are well above average”? Sep 26, 2022 at 15:02
  • @FireandIce I feel like "well above" might work in this context as well, in British slang. I'm not British, but I've heard the well+adjective often - well chuffed, well hard, well good, etc. It grated on me a bit at first, but now I barely notice it.
    – Driftr95
    Sep 26, 2022 at 15:15
  • If you use "well above," you have to compare it to something. So you have to say, "The bridge is well above us." (meaning where we are standing). I would still most often say "way". Sep 26, 2022 at 20:05

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