from Longman Contemporary:

so (that)

a) in order to make something happen, make something possible etc He lowered his voice so Doris couldn’t hear.

Why don’t you start out early so that you don’t have to hurry?

b) used to say that something happens or is true as a result of the situation you have just stated

There are no buses, so you’ll have to walk.

The gravestones were covered with moss, so that it was impossible to read the names on them.

Q: a) He lowered his voice so Doris couldn’t hear.

I think 'so Doris couldn't hear' sounds more like a result than a purpose.

Am I correct? Is there any way to properly distinquish between them when you use 'so that'?

If you are a native English speaker,

  1. When you read, what's the first feelling of it? result or purpose

  2. When you hear, what's the first feelling of it? result or purpose

1 Answer 1


The obvious interpretation of He lowered his voice so Doris couldn't hear is that the speaker wanted to keep his words a secret from Doris - that was his purpose.

However, if the context was that Doris was eavesdropping without the speaker's knowledge, it could mean that he lowered his voice for some other reason, with the result that she couldn't hear any more.

  • To Kate, Do you think it's a result or purpose?
    – gomadeng
    May 17, 2023 at 9:06
  • 2
    I thought that was clear from my answer, but as it evidently wasn't I have edited the answer. May 17, 2023 at 12:30
  • 2
    Agreed, and there's no difference between hearing it and reading it.
    – gotube
    May 17, 2023 at 15:50
  • By the way, if OP is concerned about being misunderstood, they could reword it so it’s clear (and did you notice what I did just there? :-). For instance, “He lowered his voice to prevent Doris’s hearing,” or, “He lowered his voice, and thus Doris couldn’t hear.” May 17, 2023 at 17:50

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