The Difference: So & So that (English Grammar)

So - The Coordinating Conjunction

Most students know how to use 'so'. It is a coordinating conjunction, which means it can join two independent clauses. It is used to show cause & effect (result). For example:

I was hungry, so I ate.

The printer was broken, so we couldn't use it.

[cause], so [effect]

So has a meaning of 'therefore' here (except 'therefore' is not a conjunction).


So (that) - The Subordinating Conjunction

So that has a meaning similar to 'in order to/in order that'. It describes the purpose of an action.  It begins a subordinate clause (a clause that is dependent on a main clause). For example:

The teacher spoke slowly so that his students would understand the lesson.

Here, his students understanding the lesson is the purpose/aim of the action of speaking slowly. It is not the result. In this sentence, we don't know the result. We only know that he spoke slowly for the purpose of helping them understand.

Here are some more examples:

She exercises so that she can lose weight. (this is her purpose for exercising)

We should recycle so that our children can enjoy our planet in the future. (purpose, not effect)

The Confusing Part: 'That' is optional in 'So that'

You can say either of these:

She exercises so that she can lose weight. (purpose)

She exercises so she can lose weight. (purpose)

The word (that) is optional.

To talk about purposesoso that
To talk about a result (effect)so

In other words, anytime you can say 'so that', you can also shorten it to 'so'. However, you cannot use 'so that' if you are talking about the effect (result) of an action (you can only use so). For example:

It was cheap so that I bought it. (we are talking about the result, not purpose)

What's the answer here?

1. The movie was boring, _______ we stopped watching it. (show answer)

2. She is studying Spanish ______ she can communicate when she moves to Spain next year. (show answer)

What's the difference between so and so that?

I made this page so that you can understand the difference between these two words.

Try some more exercises on the difference between so and so that below.

Practice Exercises: So vs. So that

In these exercises, choose between 'so' as a coordinating conjunction used for cause and effect, and 'so (that)' as a subordinate conjunction used to show purpose.

  1. The piano was heavy  we needed two people to move it.
  2. No one invited him to the party  he didn't come.
  3. We're painting our house  it will look better.
  4.  the children would listen, the teacher raised her voice.
  5. I am a man  I am not a woman.
  6. We hired a cleaner  our house is clean now.
  7. We hired a cleaner  our house would be clean for the party.




If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

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25 comments on “The Difference: So & So that (English Grammar)

  1. Joyce (Posted on 9-9-2019 at 23:00) Reply

    Thank you very much!

  2. Ayman Refaee (Posted on 10-19-2019 at 18:11) Reply

    Many thanks
    I really understand the difference between So & So that from your site.

  3. Yolanda G. (Posted on 3-18-2020 at 05:43) Reply

    Thanks a lot.
    I perfectly understood the difference between So & So that with your explanations.

  4. Silvia (Posted on 3-18-2020 at 11:38) Reply

    Thanks teacher

  5. Miguel (Posted on 4-9-2020 at 16:50) Reply

    So useful and clear, Thanks a lot

    1. R.R.SHASI KUMAR (Posted on 7-9-2020 at 00:00) Reply

      It was nice and easy

  6. Sofia (Posted on 4-14-2020 at 19:38) Reply

    I like doing this so or so that its fun using them and I wanna improve on my mistakes

  7. Sara (Posted on 4-14-2020 at 20:59) Reply

    that really helped thank ^_^

  8. Valerie (Posted on 4-14-2020 at 22:46) Reply

    Fun and interesting and that had helped a lot.Thanks!

    1. Guadalupe Espinoza Garc­a (Posted on 6-14-2020 at 23:58) Reply

      The use of “SO” is something difficult for me

  9. Nia (Posted on 6-20-2020 at 01:01) Reply

    Thanks…this was really helpful

  10. Harrthi (Posted on 11-18-2020 at 10:30) Reply

    Thank u soo much I understood the difference

  11. Joseph Hester (Posted on 2-16-2021 at 20:12) Reply

    Awesome! Thank you so much!
    I was struggling to explain the difference to my students, and you have cleared up my (and their) confusion.

  12. Getachew Mulu (Posted on 8-12-2021 at 07:57) Reply

    Thank you so much for your clarification and we need to continue with you.

  13. gioidang (Posted on 11-12-2021 at 03:55) Reply

    Thanks so much.
    It was a struggle between so and so that. Through the article, I understand the difference between them.

  14. Priyanka (Posted on 8-8-2022 at 04:05) Reply

    How can we get the answers

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 8-8-2022 at 08:38) Reply

      Hello. Please try again. I have changed a setting to enable mobile users to do the quiz.

  15. Sambath (Posted on 8-29-2022 at 20:47) Reply

    He buys bike so that he can ride

    1. mb (Posted on 8-29-2022 at 21:07) Reply

      Correct! But the sentence would probably be in the past tense, e.g. “He bought a bike so that he can ride.”

  16. Jutta (Posted on 1-14-2023 at 00:39) Reply

    Hi, I just made a test on how to use “so” or “so that” on another webside and I failed. I was frustrated and looked for another side to learn the correct use. And when I came by and I finnally got it! Thanks a lot!!!!
    But reading that the that in so that is not necessarily leaves me wondering: why do I struggle to crasp it???? ;-)

  17. amy (Posted on 3-7-2023 at 12:53) Reply

    Thanks. It is clearer now.

  18. Sebastian (Posted on 3-17-2023 at 17:10) Reply

    Very nice

  19. Kalume (Posted on 1-10-2024 at 04:49) Reply

    Thank you so much.

  20. Sylvanus (Posted on 2-28-2024 at 23:52) Reply

    Thank you so much

  21. So or so that (Posted on 5-14-2024 at 04:29) Reply

    I am doing these exercises so that I can teach my students better on this topic. Thank you ><

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