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I'm Japanese and I've already learned these two constructions.

She is too busy to go to the party.
She is so busy that she can't go to the party.

I've learned that they mean almost the same thing.
And I know "so that" can also be used like this.

I didn't eat breakfast today so that I'm hungry now.

Then I have a question.
Can I say these?

She is too busy so that she can't go to the party.
She is so busy so that she can't go to the party.

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  • 5
    No. The expression is too busy to [do something]. It's incorrect to repeat so in the second sentence. Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 12:11
  • 4
    No, you can't say She is too busy so that she can't go. You have to say She is too busy to go. OR She is so busy that she can't go. Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 12:11
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    "I didn't eat breakfast today so that I'm hungry now" sounds odd to me: "so that" would typically indicate an intention or purpose, e.g. "I didn't eat breakfast today so that I can stuff myself at the buffet lunch" or "I didn't eat breakfast today so that I can save money". It's a bit too formal for speech though.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 14:40
  • Is "The roof had fallen in, so that the cottage was not habitable." also incorrect ? The most popular internet English-Japanese dictionary says this is correct. "so that" can mean result, though "that" is often omitted in conversation. ejje.weblio.jp/content/so+that
    – Chance
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 16:29
  • @Chance It's definitely not correct. You can omit the 'that' in 'so that', but not every instance of 'so' can have 'that' added. 'So that the cottage was not habitable' would only make sense if you were doing something to intentionally make it uninhabitable for whatever reason. 'We smashed the roof in, so that the cottage would be uninhabitable.'
    – Angelos
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 20:24

2 Answers 2

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First, I'd like to point out a nuance to using "so that." It is used to indicate intention: you did something to achieve the desired effect.

  • I didn't eat breakfast today, so I'm hungry now.

is just a statement of fact. 1) I did not eat breakfast. 2) As a result, I am now hungry.

  • I didn't eat breakfast today so that I am hungry now.

means that you deliberately did not eat breakfast because you wanted to be hungry.

So as to your question:

She is too busy so that she can't go to the party.

This is incorrect. In English, we don't use "too X ... that". It sounds wrong, even if it might be understandable. If we wanted to say this, we would say something like "She is too busy. She can't go to the party." We can connect these sentences with a number of conjunctions:

  • She is too busy and (she) can't go to the party.
  • She is too busy, so she can't go to the party.
  • She is too busy; she can't go to the party.

Your second sentence is closer to correct, but still a bit odd:

She is so busy so that she can't go to the party.

Since "so that" implies intention, this makes it sound like she has chosen to be so busy because she wanted an excuse to avoid the party. The most natural way of saying this would be to drop or move the "that":

  • She is so busy, she can't go to the party.
  • She is so busy that she can't go to the party.

(Finally, you might notice that grammatically, the construction of this sentence looks very similar to the three example sentences I gave above.)

頑張ってください!

Edit: Which of "so adjective that", "so that", "so" , "too adjective to" can mean result, intention, or degree? This is tricky to explain, because a lot of it can be context.

  • ...so [adjective] that...
  • ...too [adjective] to...

These mean both result and degree: the degree causes the result. "This is so big that I can't lift it" indicates the degree of size (very big!) but also the result (cannot be lifted). You could also say "This is too big to lift" and that would mean the same thing.

"So" on its own can mean any of the options. It's very similar to から (kara) in Japanese—it just shows that two ideas are connected. "I did not eat breakfast, so I'm hungry." does not imply intention. Part of the reason this does not imply intention is because it's describing things as simple cause-and-effect.

"So that" implies intent and shows that the outcome was expected. It's always used with a modal verb, such as "will", "can", or "could". They know what the result will be ahead of time, so by taking that action, they expect that result.

  • "I didn't eat breakfast so that I would be hungry."
  • "She's staying busy so that she won't be asked to go to the party."
  • "He left a note so that they could see we needed milk."
  • "I am here so that I can try out for the team."

Honestly though, in all these cases you can drop/ignore the "that". The sentences sound far more natural and have the same meaning. Technically, it might be slightly more informal, but I don't think anyone will notice or care, and it will avoid a number of potential problems.

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  • 頑張ります! Is "The roof had fallen in, so that the cottage was not habitable." also incorrect ? The most popular internet English-Japanese dictionary says this is correct. "so that" can mean result, though "that" is often omitted in conversation. ejje.weblio.jp/content/so+that
    – Chance
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 16:27
  • If the first part of the sentence results in or implies the second part, simply use "so." If the first part of the sentence describes an action or situation that is intended to make the second part true, one may use "so that." For example, "He destroyed the cottage roof, so that no one could move in." But in general, simply using "so" without "that" will almost always be correct in either case.
    – Tanaya
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 20:27
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    As a born English speaker, who wasn't taught any grammar I like this board teaches me why what I do is done. as in the " 'so that' shows intent" Oh yes it does doesn't it :)
    – WendyG
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 15:44
  • I've understood that "too adjective to, so that" and "so adjective so that" are incorrect. I have to understand which of "so adjective that", "so that", "so" , "too adjective to" can mean result, intention, degree. I'm afraid but could you add these 12 combination in your answer?
    – Chance
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 16:13
  • I've added some more examples and explanation. Generally, I'd recommend just using "so" instead of "so that", since it will avoid a lot of this confusion. "So that" is uncommon nowadays; I would really only expect to see it in very formal or technical settings (an academic paper, a technical manual, a field report, etc.).
    – Aos Sidhe
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 17:16
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A. She is too busy to go to the party. CORRECT

B. She is so busy that she can't go to the party. CORRECT

C. I didn't eat breakfast today so that I'm hungry now. INCORRECT

C. CORRECTED: I didn't eat breakfast today so I'm hungry now.

D. She is too busy so that she can't go to the party. INCORRECT

D. CORRECTED: She is too busy so she can't go to the party.

E. She is so busy so that she can't go to the party. INCORRECT

E. CORRECTED: She is so busy that she can't go to the party.

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  • Is "The roof had fallen in, so that the cottage was not habitable." also incorrect ? The most popular internet English-Japanese dictionary says this is correct. "so that" can mean result, though "that" is often omitted in conversation. ejje.weblio.jp/content/so+that
    – Chance
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 16:26
  • In my opinion, that construction is awkward. It confuses two meanings: The roof had fallen in, so the cottage was not habitable uses so to mean therefore. The given sentence uses so that in a way similar to such that: it shows that the roof fell in enough to make it inhabitable. (That would be in comparison to a roof that might have slightly fallen in, but in a minor way, so that the cottage would still be habitable.)
    – Schism
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 20:28
  • Thank you. Now I know "so that" always means intention.I have to understand which of "so adjective that", "so that", "so" , "too adjective to" can mean result, intention, degree. I'm afraid but could you add these 12 combination in your answer?
    – Chance
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 16:16

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