4

All these sentences have this pattern "be +adjective+ as + to verb"

I was told that these are correct:

1 How could you be so stupid as to think that would work?

2 My headache was not so bad as to prevent me from going to the party.

3 The box was so heavy as to be impossible to lift.

4 This problem is so easy as to be solved by a five-year-old.

But this one is wrong

5 He was so strong as to lift that box.

Do you agree it's wrong? If yes, what makes it wrong?

6
  • 2
    I don't find (4) particularly natural - I would say so easy, it could be solved by a five-year-old or easy enough to be.... I think He was so strong as to be able to lift that box is possible, but sounds old-fashioned. Most people would say He was strong enough to... Sep 25 at 16:57
  • Why does 5 stand out? It has the same pattern.
    – user1425
    Sep 25 at 17:03
  • Another common expression is "so adjective that". I think all your sentences are correct. Sep 26 at 2:57
  • @Man_From_India If your username is literal, I wonder whether it's a dialectal thing? I'm Australian and I concur with Kate: 1-3 fine, 4 weird, 5 definitely wrong. Sep 26 at 4:04
  • @TimPederick yes I am Indian, and a non native. So I believe if it is popular in a non native place, that doesn't mean it is correct. May be it is dialectical, but I would still think that it is wrong use of a foreign language. But you see I really didn't like those sentences, I was more comfortable with "so adjective that" structure. But when I made that comment I searched AmeE corpus, and found that this construction is nothing new. Sep 26 at 6:27
7

Only the first three of your examples are good English, and the other two are not. This works fine for the explanation of why the bad ones don't work.

The structure [ "so" + adjective + "as to" + base form ] has the same meaning as [ "so" + adjective + "that" + noun + simple past ], like this:

1 How could you be so stupid that you thought that would work?
2 My headache was not so bad that it prevented me from going to the party.
3 The box was so heavy that it was impossible to lift.

These new sentences all make perfect sense.

But when we apply the same transformation to the other two sentences, we get these new ones:

4 This problem is so easy that it was solved by a five-year-old.
5 He was so strong that he lifted that box.

You can get the feeling of what's intended, but the meaning isn't good. Those sentences should read something like:

"... that it was solvable by a five-year-old"
"... that he was able to lift that box."

So with the "so ... as to" structure, they should read:

"This problem is so easy as to be solvable by a five-year-old."
"He was so strong as to be able to lift that box.

2
  • Good answer that makes me want to dive deeper on why the transformed sentences aren't good. Looking at sentence 3, I too thought thought that it needed to be changed to "solvable", not "solved". I wonder whether this means that the difference is semantic? That "so X as to Y" properly describes a state Y, not an action? Just speculating, I haven't pondered (counter-)arguments or anything. Sep 26 at 4:12
  • Here is an example from a book by Sarah Brady, ‎Merrill Mcloughlin. She grabbed his arm , but Jim was so strong that he lifted her right up and she went flying across the bed
    – user1425
    Sep 26 at 5:56

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