So, too, and much



I have a question regarding "so," "too much," and "so much." Why do we say: "so much noise," but not "so loud noise"? What about "too much noise"?

Maria Palantza
Posted 30 October 2002
The word so is used with descriptive adjectives and adverbs when no noun follows in the phrase:

Burt is so tall! (Burt is very, very tall!)

Helen seems so sad today! (Helen seems very, very sad today!)

The noise of the traffic is so loud! (The noise of the traffic is very, very loud!)

Ms. Smith worked so hard on the project that it was finished in one week.

His story was so clearly false that even he didn't expect us to believe him

The noise was so loud that it woke up the baby.

The word so is also used before determiners such as much, many, little and few which are followed by nouns:

He has so much money he never wears the same shirt twice

There was so little traffic we got there in half the time

Anita has so many bills to pay she's desperate

There's so much noise there that I can't sleep.

So few people attended the last lecture that we canceled the rest of the series.

and followed by adjectives without nouns:

He looks so much worse today than yesterday that we're taking him to the doctor.

His attitude is so little changed that I don't hope for a reconciliation.

Why not, then, "so loud noise"? Note that there is a noun here (noise), and, there is no determiner such as much, many, few, or little. In this case, with nouns modified by an adjective appearing directly before the noun, the construction changes. The operative word in this case is such. (Note that much, many, few, and little are NOT used here.) Use such before noncount and plural nouns:

I'm not used to such loud noise. [noise: noncount]

I've never seen such rude visitors. [visitors: plural count]

Use such with these nouns, too, even when there is no descriptive adjective before the noun:

I'm not used to such noise.

I've never seen such visitors.

Use such a before singular count nouns,with or without descriptive adjectives:

She is such a good mathematician that several colleges are clamoring for her to enroll.

It was such a hot day that nobody could work.

You can't ask anything of him; he'll break down and cry. He's such a baby.

It is curious that English has an additional construction used with only singular count nouns modified by gradable adjectives:

She's so good a mathematician that several colleges are clamoring for her to enroll

INCORRECT: They are so good mathematicians.

This construction is considered formal in style.

What about too much noise? Too much + a noun indicates an amount of something beyond a certain limit-more than expected, desired, needed, or allowed. If you tell someone, "You're making too much noise," you are telling them they are exceeding some kind of limit. If you say "Don't make so much noise," you are telling them to reduce the amount of noise, but you are not saying that they have exceeded a limit.

Marilyn Martin


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