emphatic "so" preceding verbs

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New Member
English - International
Term: (so)

I would like to express my thanks to the site founders and the population for making such a wonderful gift available to earth residents.

Every time I have visited this site, I have learned something new!

I hope it will not be considered too presumptuous that my first post consists primarily of a suggestion, not for a new entry, but an addition to an existing one.

Over the past decade or so, I have noticed that the word "so" has evolved itself into a new usage that began, if I am not mistaken, in Southern California, but (due in large part, no doubt, to the technology of Modern Today) has rapidly become ubiquitous.

With the understanding that my very subjective characterization of "a decade or so" as "rapid" may or may not be shared by the Most Noble and Serene Guardians of the venerable portal of the English Dictionary, let alone the provocative topic of whether and by what formula the location and dimensions of that thin and often blurry line that separates slang and colloquialism from common usage, I would like to humbly propose for your consideration and contemplation, the use of "so" preceding a verb, for the purpose of emphasis.


I am so not going to sit through that boring movie again!

My toes are a hot mess! I am so getting a pedi tomorrow.

You are so not turning that paper in like that. Hello! It's called spell-check!

Can you believe Fulano didn't even text her back? She is so not going to prom with him now.

If this question has already been discussed, and the idea rejected, please accept my apologies.

While I was of course able to check the entry in the dictionary itself, to confirm that this usage is not present and I did search the Dictionary Additions forum using "so" as a search string, but because it is a two-letter word, and such a very common and oft-used one, I am unable to accord the results of my search the same confidence as if I had searched, for instance, for the word "platypus." :)
  • cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    We are so going to enjoy your contributions to this funny little corner of the WR universe!

    Thanks for the suggestion. It looks good.

    We still need some live examples from websites or print publications.

    Do you think it's correct to call it an adverb in your sentences?


    Senior Member
    English (USA), Spanish
    I wanted to add that the pronunciation is actually different - if only in accentuation. The so described above is always heavily accented, with a falling or flat tone contour. I think the vowel is longer too.

    In fact, its origin seems strikingly analogous to, like, the origin of too from to. I suggest we start spelling it soo:eek::D.

    I'm also not sure if it's an adverb. But it can be replaced in all places with "definitely" or less colloquially, "indeed". These are glossed as adverbs in WR's dictionary. Finding print examples is going to be difficult because there is an overwhelming usage of so the "normal" way.

    Can you believe Fulano didn't even text her back? She is so not going to prom with him now.
    This made me giggle.:D

    Also I would still call this slang I think. No one in my social group would use this so unless we were being ironic or making fun of people who do. I think the usage is still somewhat limited in the US. Maybe "regional colloquialism?" It is more common than it used to be in tv/pop film.

    For what its worth, it is a March 2006 draft addition to the Oxford English Dictionary (requires subscriber/academic login; see bottom of entry). So it's probably worth considering for the WR dictionary as well.

    The OED groups it with a similar so and so not intensifiers modifying nouns/adjectives/adverbs. It seems rather old. I like this quote:

    1923 R. FIRBANK Flower beneath Foot i. 16 What can you see in her..? She's so housemaid.
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    I am soooo going to throttle the next person who uses this friendly little sub-forum to advocate for their own preferred or invented neologisms!
    I suggest we start spelling it soo:eek::D.
    Here is a serious comment: Is this emphatic so used as described in the first post, "preceding verbs"? I think not. Look at all the example sentences. The pattern is this:

    Conjugated (or, I suppose, even the infinitive) to be + emphatic adverbial so + verb phrase.

    Here are two more examples from among what Google predicts to be 14,800,000 examples of "so going to *".

    1. SparkLife » Do You Like Music? You Are SO Going to Jail.

      You Are SO Going to Jail. Posted October 26, 2009. Pointless worrying is the media's favorite activity ever. Today's news contains yet another report ...
      community.sparknotes.com/.../do-you-like-music-you-are-so-going-to-jail - Cached -
    2. Gamasutra - News - Microsoft Announces Games On Demand For Windows

      Dec 3, 2009 ... If they're making this store contingent upon games on there being GfW compliant, this is so going to fail. And I can't imagine which gamers ...
      www.gamasutra.com/.../Microsoft_Announces_Games_On_Demand_For_Windows.php - Cached -


    Senior Member
    Italian, Neapolitan
    This is very interesting. I've often noticed this use of "so" in American movies and TV series but I've never seen it discussed before. I googled "intensifying so" and found a scholarly paper on this very subject:
    which might be of interest.

    Apparently, although "verb-intensifying so" (as the author calls it) is most commonly found in the pattern described by Cuchuflete (after "to be"), it can also be found in other patterns. Here are some of the examples provided:

    I so don’t like you right now
    You have so got to see this
    You so did not just say that
    I so bombed that quiz


    New Member
    English - International
    Thank you so much, giovannino, for that interesting link - and also for doing me the favor of providing the required citations for this intriguing usage gibbet.

    clevermizo, I guess I would be more likely to call it a generational colloquialism as opposed to a regional one, because although I hear it used across demographic and geographic spectra, I have noticed that it seems to have been more completely absorbed by, say, the under 40 as opposed to the over 40 populations.

    But - and I think this but is big - we could also say the same about frequency of use of that very technology - including tv/pop/film - to which I attribute the spread of the phenomenon!

    That gap is closing, as an increasing number of "older" English speakers come into that technology use fold - and of course the younger ones get older, and bring their speech patterns with them.

    Who would have imagined, in the mid-1960s, for example, that saying that someone was "into" something would become such an accepted and standard thing?

    So it will be, I believe, with this newly-emerged usage of "so."

    Your comments made me sit back and reflect on just how "tv/pop/film-driven" the evolution of language - not just English, but all language - is driven today - and the reference to your social group reminded me that language habits and customs are subject to all kinds of variables neither regional or geographic - that dazzling array of cultural factors that contribute to the resistance - or lack thereof - to the influences of all that technology-spawned "media."

    I remember being distinctly annoyed by the intensifying so for the first few years I heard it, from media and population alike - and then, I don't know exactly when or why, but one day I was surprised to discover that it had slipped into my own speech, just slithered right on in there and made itself at home like a garden snake in a flower bed!

    I am actually inclined to think your spelling suggestion makes a lot of sense!

    Not only is it more reflective of how the word is actually said when used like that, it would be a better fit for English, as "high context" words stuck like the hard little raisin eyes of a gingerbread man into a "low-context" language do little more than heap additional misery onto the heads of people who are attempting to successfully chew the gingerbread man with new teeth, that they may hang its clothes in their own personal language closets.

    Your OED citation has obliged me to sheepishly recant my labeling of it as "verb-preceding!"

    She's so housemaid

    I so didn't even think about that variation, though I have heard - and probably used - it countless times.

    Therefore, cucheflete, I will cautiously say that yes, I would consider it an adverb, since even in cases like the above, the target of the intensity, in this instance, "housemaid," is being used as an adjective - although the very act of breezily adjectivizing words traditionally identified as being of the noun tribe opens up a whole nother intriguing can of Usage on the March!

    You are also right in that it is often used in conjunction with the verb "to be," but as giovannino's examples show, not always by any means.

    That the examples that I gave were all "to be-containing" flavor was just coincidental haste and thoughtlessness on my part, for which I apologize, and thanks to giovannino all over again for his kindness in rectifying my omissions as well as for hooking us all up with the Kuha paper - which contains - on the very first page - yet another variation that I did not include in my examples - intensifying the verb "to be" itself!

    It is so not a nugget

    Thanks again to all for your kind words - and for treating me to such delectable thought-nuggets! :)


    Senior Member
    This has been interesting, and fun. That said, the purpose of this sub-forum is to suggest new terms for consideration for placement in WR dictionaries, together with new meanings for existing words. This particular use of so is already included in a number of dictionaries.

    The OED is cited earlier in the thread, and it is not the only dictionary with this particular meaning defined and illustrated:

    Merriam-Webster Online--

    2 a : to an indicated or suggested extent or degree <had never been so happy> b : to a great extent or degree : very, extremely <loves her so> c : to a definite but unspecified extent or degree <can only do so much in a day> d : most certainly : indeed <you did so do it> e : most decidedly : surely <I so don't believe you>
    Oxford Advanced Learner's Dict.--

    8 (informal) used, often with a negative, before adjectives and noun phrases to emphasize sth that you are saying: He is so not the right person for you. That is so not cool.
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