Another Monday morning and after greeting my students, conversation immediately turned to the previous weekend. A good number of them had been to an international student party on Friday night, with some getting back home just before the sun came up. Apparently it was a night to remember, with one of the students exclaiming that there were too many people. “Really?”, I replied. Are you sure you didn’t mean to say that there were so many people? Immediately, I decided to put the students into pairs and give them two minutes to discuss the difference, if any, between

  • too many people
  • so many people

I’m happy to report that some realized that the sentences have a different meaning.

If one simply wants to comment about the large number of partygoers, then so many people is the one to use. On the other hand, if you want to express your unhappiness with the situation (for example, there was not enough room to dance), then too many people is the way to say it. The word too introduces a negative element.

SO / TOO can be used in a variety of situations.

  • It’s so windy today => I’m stating a fact; it’s windier than usual
  • It’s too windy today => I’m showing that I’m not happy with this fact
  • The sea is so rough that I’ll get seasick if we go sailing => similar to saying that the sea is very rough and therefore I’ll get seasick
  • The sea is too rough to go sailing => It would be dangerous to go sailing

Use it or you lose it

Send me some other example sentences to show that you’ve understood the difference between SO / TOO. You can use the comments form below.

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