5

from a song:
(1) I should have never dropped my guard so you could stab me in the back.
my variant:
(2) I should have never dropped my guard so you couldn't stab me in the back.
As far as I understand, "so" in (1) and (2) means "in order that".

Is (1) or (2) correct?
If (1) is and (2) is not, explain please why.
I'm asking this because proceeding from translating into my native language, (1) doesn't make sense and (2) does.


Maybe to better figure out this issue, it is worth considering some more sentence.

my examples:
(3) You don't need to eat much so that you won't be fat.
(4) You don't need to eat much so that you will be fat.
As far as I understand, "so that" in (3) and (4) means "in order that".

Proceeding from translating into my native language, (3) makes sense and (4) does not.
Do you agree?
If not, then why not?


an update:

To me, (3) makes sense because (3) means (3a):
(3a) You don't need to eat much in order for you not to be fat.

To me, (4) doesn't make sense because (4) means (4a):
(4a) You don't need to eat much in order for you to be fat.

The meaning which was in my mind when I was creating (3) and (4) was:
(5) You don't need to eat much. Otherwise you will be fat.
Since (3) and (3a) mean (5), I wrote they make sense.
Since (4) and (4a) don't mean (5), I wrote they don't make sense.

Tell me please why I'm wrong?

5
  • 3 and 4 are not correct. I'm not quite sure what you are trying to say here. Perhaps "You don't need to eat that much to get fat". or "You shouldn't eat so much. You'll get fat.
    – Billy Kerr
    Aug 10, 2023 at 21:56
  • @BillyKerr I wrote an update below my post. Could you help me please to see the light?
    – Loviii
    Aug 10, 2023 at 23:50
  • 1
    @Loviii: Your examples still don't work very well. Your (4a) means "Even if you eat very little you can still be thin" (this does not make much sense); (4b) means "You can eat just a little and still be fat" which makes more sense. I think you're possibly confused about "You don't need" - this does not mean "you must not"; it means "it is not necessary", i.e. it is about the absence of a requirement to do something, and not a requirement not to do something.
    – psmears
    Aug 11, 2023 at 10:15
  • @psmears if "you don't need to eat much" means "it's not necessary for you to eat much", then probably it's correct to use "you needn't eat much" instead. Is the following sentence correct?: "You needn't eat much so that you won't be fat." Thanks.
    – Loviii
    Aug 12, 2023 at 1:03
  • @Loviii: No, "needn't" is just short for "don't need"; it means the same. What you're probably trying to say is "You mustn't eat too much or else you'll get fat".
    – psmears
    Aug 12, 2023 at 7:07

2 Answers 2

7

I don't really understand OP's examples #3 or #41, but #1 and #2 are syntactically ambiguous. It's a matter of pragmatics rather than syntax whether the so that... clause applies to my guard or the dropping of that guard.

We logically assume that in #1 it's the fact of the guard being dropped which enables backstabbing, but in #2 it's the guard itself which (until dropped) is there to prevent backstabbing.


1 On closer inspection, #3 and #4 are imho syntactically invalid (or at least, seriously non-idiomatic). Valid phrasing would include, for example,...

You don't need to eat so much [that] you get fat

...or more naturally, imho, There's no need to eat so much [that] you get fat - which effectively means You shouldn't eat so much [that] you get fat.

1
  • 3
    Yes. It seems paradoxical, but both sentences are both grammatically and logically valid and would be understood to mean the same thing. Often, we interpret a sentence based not purely on the grammar of the sentence but on logic and knowledge of the real world. Many jokes are based on this fact. Like there's a classic bad newspaper headline, "Iraqi Head Seeks Arms". Of course what the writer meant was that the leader of Iraq wants weapons, but it could also be read to mean that one body parts wants another.
    – Jay
    Aug 10, 2023 at 18:14
1

The line from the song, "I should have never dropped my guard so you could stab me in the back," is colloquial. To make the meaning a little more clear, it would be reasonable (I would say) to insert a word like "just" or only" before "so," e.g. "I should have never dropped my guard just so you could stab me in the back." This is still very colloquial but you might find it easier to understand. The idea is that the speaker is lamenting having dropped their guard, because it made an opening for the other person to betray them. They're taking an affect of harshly accusing the other person.

"I should have never dropped my guard so you couldn't stab me in the back" is actually a somewhat different construction. I think you could reasonably expand that to, "I should have never dropped my guard, so that you couldn't stab me in the back." In this case, the speaker is elaborating on why they should never have dropped their guard, namely because it would have been a ward against being backstabbed. This is a little more removed and clinical in tone—the speaker could conceivably be muttering to themselves under their breath as they say this I think, probably in a movie or the like.

They're almost the same, but not exactly. This kind of speech is a little hard to make sense of systematically because it's so colloquial. These are both kind of special constructions that you would almost always hear in speech—they're kind of hard to write down without losing something.

3
  • I don't really understand "just so", but I understand phrases with the word "way", e.g. "in such a way that". Using it, do you mean: "I should have never dropped my guard (just) so you could stab me in the back." = "I should have never dropped my guard in such a way that you could stab me in the back." ? Thanks.
    – Loviii
    Aug 11, 2023 at 18:51
  • 1
    Yes, that sounds right. Aug 11, 2023 at 18:55
  • Thinking about this a bit more, "just" in this case also connotes futiliy—the person is saying something like, "I let down my guard, and then all you did was to stab me in the back." "All you did" in this case is similar to "just". Like, the other person could have done something nice in response to the speaker letting their guard down, but instead they betrayed them. Saying "just," "only," "all you did," etc. emphasizes the idea that could have done something better but didn't. Again, it's a way of harshly accusing the other person, lambasting them, lamenting their actions, etc. Aug 12, 2023 at 8:25

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