I see the the sentence "You are so busted!", which means you got caught doing something wrong. But I see "so busted" as a sort of set phrase in many example sentences.

What is the meaning of 'so' here? Can it be without the 'so'?

Thank you very much.

  • 1
    "You are busted" is valid. The 'so' is used for emphasis. Similar adverbs are 'very', truly', 'completely' etc. Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 20:00
  • Weather Vane, thank you very much for the comment. I have one more question. Please see below. Thank you. Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 21:48

2 Answers 2


"So" is often used as an adverb for emphasis: "This wine is so good" (=very good)

Your sentence means he is certainly or absolutely busted. You can say "You're busted" without "so".

  • James K, thank you very much for the comment. If 'so' means very, why do I see most example sentences with 'so busted' and not 'very busted'. Is that because of the rhyming of the 2 words 'so busted' or the proper intensity of the adjective of 'so' as opposed to 'very'. Thank you. Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 21:56
  • 1
    That is because of idiom. The idiomatic expression is "so busted". The word "so" means "completely" not "very" in this case. But "so" is more casual. "Busted" is a very casual word. So you use "so busted" not "completely busted".
    – James K
    Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 22:44
  • @user1026669 - it's American 'Valley talk'. You are so dumped! (said by person ending a romantic affair), you are so fired! (person being dismissed from job). Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 22:49
  • 1
    Ohmygosh you are so right.
    – James K
    Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 22:50
  • Michael Harvey, James K. Thank you for the additional comments. Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 18:00

"So" is used colloquially as an intensifier, modifying an adjective.

In more "standard" / prestige English, it forms part of a comparison, "X is so Y that Z" means "X is Y to such a great extent that as a consequence Z". For instance, "you are in so much trouble that you're going to be punished for months".

In the colloquial use, there isn't a direct comparison, it's used roughly as a synonym for "very" or "extremely".

The reason it sounds more natural than either of those in this example is that "busted" is itself a very informal word, so in the dialects and situations where someone would say "you're busted" they are more likely to emphasise with an informal "so".

Saying "you are extremely busted" gives the impression of a deliberate ironic mix of formal and informal.

  • IMSoP, thank you very much for the additional explanation. English is so difficult. Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 17:58

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