Monday, February 7, 2011

Common Error: Confusing "too," "so," and "very"

Good evening, and happy Mistake Monday! In our previous post we mentioned a good reference for advanced English learners, so now let's take a look at a mistake that students of all levels sometimes make: confusing the words "too," "so," and "very."

I especially notice this problem with my students who speak Spanish, and sometimes they make this mistake even when they're in advanced classes. Here are some tips:

Common Error: Confusing "too," "so," and "very"
DON’T say this:I like too much that TV show.
He's too excited about going to the concert.
She likes pizza too much.
WHY?-All three of these words can add emphasis, but we use them differently in English and Spanish.

-"Too" expresses a large degree, but it also generally indicates that something is excessive and not possible: "The T-shirt was too big for me. I had to get a different one." OR: "It was too dark to see who committed the crime."

-The words "so" and "very" also express a large degree, but they're used differently than "too":

-Use "very" to intensify: "It's very hot in Panama today." OR: "It was very nice of her to help the sick puppy."

-Use "so" if you want to show cause and effect, and usually include the word "that": "He ate so many chicken wings that he got sick." OR: "Jane made Mark so mad that he left the meeting."
INSTEAD, SAY THIS:-"She is very beautiful."
-"She likes pizza very much."
-(OR, more commonly: "She likes pizza a lot.")
-"She was so hungry that she ate a whole pizza by herself!"
-"She is now too poor to go to the movies. She spent all her money on pizza."

That's it for today. If you have questions or comments related to this common error or the blog in general, please leave a comment or contact us. Thanks for reading!


  1. Thank you Ryan, this is a good one!

  2. i often pick up students misusing TOO where they should be using SO: as in

    "It was *TOO* much fun!"

    here SO works better, or is more typical of native speaker utterances than VERY.

    - so would you say for exclamations, SO is generally most appropriate?

  3. Lucy,

    Yes, that's definitely a good point. And you're also right, it does seem like a native speaker would say "so" instead of "very" in a situation like you mentioned.

    At the very least, I wanted to mention that "so" is often used in that cause and effect type of situation, but you're right that people use it for exclamations, as well.

    I think it's hard to come up with good, clear, and brief examples sometimes. :)


  4. In this case, this comment comes from a native English

    Fifty-five years ago we didn't have "fast food" and the dollar menus. It's too easy for a working parent to drive in and get the fast food and not just on a special occasion!

    She used too, "it´s too easy for .....

    It´s correct?

  5. Hi Mynor,

    Yes, in this case she could say "too" since it indicates that it's excessively easy, and that resistance doesn't work or is impossible. She could also have said "it's very easy," but in that case, we might be left with a doubt about whether she'd get the fast food. But when she says "too easy," she indicates that she maybe tried to avoid fast food, but it was too (or excessively) easy, and she couldn't avoid or resist it.

    Thanks for the comment!



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