I did some exercises on http://www.examenglish.com/ and did surprisingly pretty well. At a certain stage, the sentence mentioned in the title came by. Since I would of course say "an enjoyable party", I thought the same applies to the cases in which the adverb "so" becomes inserted. Brief overview:

a very enjoyable party

{article} {adverb} {adjective} {noun}

This evidently is correct.

a so enjoyable party

{article} {adverb} {adjective} {noun}

This sentence has the same structure as the foregoing one but is, according to the website, not correct.

  1. Is "a so enjoyable party" also correct?

  2. Is "very enjoyable a party" therefore also correct? Does it sound good to a native speaker?

  3. What's the rationale behind this? The word classes are the same as I demonstrated above. Frankly speaking, I never read nor heard this kind of word order.


2 Answers 2


So is traditionally classified as an ‘adverb’; but this is misleading. When it is used, as in your example, to modify an adjective or another adverb, it does not stand by itself but acts as a ‘pro-adverb’ (like a pro-noun) referring to another expression which defines its current meaning. In your example, for instance, so enjoyable ‘points’ to some expression which tells us how enjoyable the party was:

The party was so enjoyable [that I stayed much later than I intended]. OR
[I stayed much later than I intended], the party was so enjoyable.

You do find this complement omitted in exclamations:

This party is so enjoyable [_]!

The gap implies that the party is so enjoyable that words fail you! Your hearer is invited to ‘fill in the blank’ for herself with whatever comparison seems appropriate.

Note that these uses are all predicative: they fall in the predicate, after the verb BE. So ADJ cannot be employed to modify a bare nominal: it has to modify an entire noun phrase (NP), which includes the determiner. Consequently, if you want to use the expression so ADJ as an attributive modifier, next to the NP it modifies, it must come before or after the NP:

okIt was so enjoyable [NP a party] that ... OR
okIt was [NP a party] so enjoyable that ... BUT NOT
It was [NP a so enjoyable party] that ...

This ‘rule’ is so strong that if you want so ADJ to modify an NP which has no determiner—an indefinite plural for instance—you must put the expression after the NP.

Mrs. Vanderhooven threw so enjoyable [NP parties] that ...

This is unacceptable; you must write:

okMrs. Vanderhooven threw [NP parties] so enjoyable that ...

Alternatively, you may leave the enjoyable in front of the noun, incorporating it in the NP, and employ the ‘pro-adjective’ such, which behaves with NPs very similarly to the way so works with adjectives:

ok Mrs. Vanderhooven threw such [NP enjoyable parties] [that ...

And this is in fact the construction that will ordinarily be used for exclamations:

This is such an enjoyable party [_]!

  • 1
    Excellent analysis of the so/such difference in this context! Like all native speakers, I know perfectly well we'd usually use such to create an NP suitable for use as a subject, etc. But I need your pro-adverb/pro-adjective distinction to understand why. Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 14:55

Normally the adjective is placed between indefinite article and noun ( a beautiful day).

In special cases the adjective is placed before a/an, e. g.

so + adjective: so beautiful a day, so difficult a task

too + adjective: too difficult a task, too long a walk

There is also another pattern:

such: such a thrilling novel

quite: quite an old book

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