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So?

Reason and Result with So and Because

soNicola

By Jacqueline Schaalje

Some learners of English think that so means the same as because. No, sorry, that doesn’t work. In fact, so and because are opposites.

Consider the following sentences:

  • I got the job, because I had the right experience.

Or: Because I had the right experience, I got the job.

  • I had the right experience, so I got the job.

So and because both give a reason. The difference is that “because” stands next to the reason, and “so” comes next to the result or the conclusion.

If I put because or so on the wrong side of the sentence, I get sentences that aren’t true or that are nonsense. Have a look for yourself:

  • I got the job, so I got the right experience.

Nonsense, right?

  • Because I got the job, I had the right experience. Not complete nonsense, but not what I wanted to say.

so2Andy Bright 

Why am I writing about this subject?

Because I sometimes see that students use so in the wrong way. Or I see that they use because, without giving a reason. But so and because must always give a reason. When you write something, I want you to notice which part of your sentence is a reason, and which part is the conclusion. Writing something that is true and accurate, or at least logical, is just as important as writing beautifully.

By the way, because and so are both conjunctions, or connecting words. Here is another article about conjunctions, and here.

so3Josef Stuefer

Here are some more sentences with so:

  • The plants were dry and getting yellow, so I watered them.

Reason: The plants were dry and getting yellow.

Result: I watered them.

  • I couldn’t answer your call, because I was in the bathroom.

Reason: I was in the bathroom.

Result: I couldn’t answer your call.

Now I’ll show you a slightly different kind of sentence, with a reason and a conclusion (not a result or an action):

  • I have two chairs and one of them is blue, so the other one is not blue.

Reason: One of the two chairs is blue.

Conclusion: The second chair is not blue.

Note that there is no action in this sentence, only a conclusion, which is the understanding of what colour the chair is.

In this type of sentence I can’t use because. The second chair is not blue because the other one is white. That doesn’t make sense.

3a)  Because I have two chairs and one of them is blue, the other one is not blue.

Sounds strange, doesn’t it? It’s not technically wrong, but it’s better to use so for something that leads to a conclusion.

  • Tomatoes can be full of pesticides, so you should wash them well.

Again, this sentence has a conclusion, rather than an action.

Reason: Tomatoes can be full of pesticides.

Conclusion: You should wash them well.

A last example:

  • Five of the guests to the party are vegetarians, so I will prepare vegetarian food.

Reason: Five of the guests to the party are vegetarians.

Conclusion: I will prepare vegetarian food.

Now do a little exercise.

You can do this quiz online here, and check your answers on the spot.

Indicate which part of the sentence is the reason and which is the result or conclusion.

1 Cara is meeting me at 3:30, so I’ll need to be ready at 3.

2 Gerald dyes his hair, because he is going grey.

3 The tea is too hot to drink now, so I’ll first eat my toast.

4 I can’t read the numbers on that car number plate, so that means I need glasses.

5 Because Rami is an ace in math, econometrics suits him like a glove.

6 My manager was nervous before her presentation, so she went to a coach to work on her speaking skills.

7 You ought to see a doctor, because you’ve been coughing for three weeks already.

8 Theresa had been warned that walking around in the city centre alone at night was dangerous, so she always went out with a friend.

 

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