Extracted from dictionary Oxford Advanced: He had changed to such an extent(= so much) that I no longer recognised him.


a. He had changed so much that I no longer recognised him.

b. He had so changed that I no longer recognised him.

Would you please show me if I have reworded the sentence correctly? if not, could you teach me?

Thanks a million

  • 2
    I've noticed something in quite a few of your posts. Be careful about the word "learn": "to learn" means absorbing knowledge. Passing it on, is "to teach". So what happens here is we teach, you learn.
    – Stephie
    Jan 13, 2015 at 8:22
  • 1
    Yes, the object of the verb "to learn" is not the one who learns but the thing that is learned. "I want to learn mathematics". Jan 13, 2015 at 8:23
  • You probably meant the pattern "so much", not "so that" in your headline. Jan 13, 2015 at 8:56
  • When you ask if you reworded it correctly; does that mean you think the original is wrong? Jan 13, 2015 at 15:58
  • No, just I am trying to rephrase the original one so that I could improve my writing.
    – nima
    Jan 13, 2015 at 18:11

3 Answers 3


He had so changed that I no longer recognised him

This sentence seemed strange to me at first. Why? Because you use the adverb so to modify the past participle changed, and split the combination "had changed". The past participle changed here is tightly linked to the verb had, they are used together to put the clause into the Past Perfect tense.

But I found these modern uses of this construction:

Evan Richardson, 2013: "My life had so drastically changed, and I myself had so changed, that seeing this old tribe at the Pierre was like a bad trip back in time that no longer applied to me." (Here we have so inserted between had and changed, just like in your example).

I looked in Google Books for had so much changed, and found several quotations from the 19th century:

The Indians now had so much changed their deportment as to bring in horses or cows, that they found astray from the mines. (Here, the adverb so much splits the Past Perfect construction "had changed"; but here the verb is used transitively: it has the object "deportment", and maybe this makes the split look more natural)

Your first sentence looked more "natural" to me:

He [had changed] so much that I longer recognised him.

Here, we are using the adverb so much to modify the whole "verb combination" had changed.

So, it is not an error to put something between a verb and its "helper". I found an interesting little article in The Economist, here's a quotation:

I didn't realise that quite so many people consider it an error to put anything between a verb and its helpers like auxiliary verbs. To this crowd, "We have always been friends" must be "We always have been friends." This is, of course, a rule that would subsume the so-called ban on split infinitives, the rule that declares "to boldly go" an error. Prof Liberman and the commenters have a roundup of the usage manuals that prescribe this false rule. One source says that the rule is "widespread among newspaper journalists", which comes as a surprise to this practitioner of the hackish arts. The Economist has no such rule, though we do tell journalists to avoid split infinitives because they annoy so many readers.


  • I love this answer, but I'm not sure I understand the essence of either the answer or the question. The question was "have I reworded this correctly?" Did that mean that we assumed the original wasn't ok? And was the answer yes, no, or something else? Jan 13, 2015 at 15:57
  • @JimReynolds - I don't know why he decided to reword the sentence, but my answer would be "yes, but the original looked better to me personally". Jan 13, 2015 at 16:30

A is fine. But B would not be likely in contemporary AmE (I can't speak for BrE). It seems quaint, outdated.

Once the reader gets past that, I suppose A and B mean the same—provided that the reader catches that you are using "so" to mean "to such a degree" rather than just "in such a manner". The first example, A, leaves no such ambiguity; "so much" is clearly a matter of degree.


"a." is idiomatic AmE.

"b." might appear in a written text, but today one is not likely to hear it spoken in AmE. Present-day AmE speakers tend to avoid placing "so" in front of the PP of the verb in that way, although 100 years ago, things were different.

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