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Using “So That” To Express Purpose in English

In recent months, a small but significant trend has been occurring – the word “so that” is becoming more mainstream in written English! In this blog article, we explore the purpose behind this change and how to use “so that” correctly.

What is So That?

So That is a common preposition used to express purpose or motivation in English. It can be translated to mean “in order to,” “so that,” or “for the purpose of.” Here are some examples:

I went to the grocery store so I could buy eggs.

I ate breakfast so I would have enough energy for the day.

She wanted to see if any of her friends had bought tickets to the concert, so she could go with them.

Using “So That” To Express Purpose in English

If you want to use “so that” to express purpose in English, be sure to know the following rules:

1. So that means for the purpose of. This is used when you want to emphasize that what you are saying is for a particular purpose. For example, “I ate so that I would not feel hungry.” This means that eating was not simply for sustenance, but also for the purpose of avoiding being uncomfortable.

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2. So that means for the reason that. This is used when you want to emphasize that something happened because of a particular cause. For example, “I broke my leg so that I wouldn’t have to go on vacation.” This means that breaking his leg was not an accident, but rather it was done deliberately so he could stay home and avoid traveling.

3. It means because that. This is used when you want to emphasize the reason for something being true or false. For example, “I studied so that I could be ready for the test.” This means that studying was done to prepare for a test, not just to improve grades in school.

4. So that means (for) the reason (that). This is used when you are referring to two different reasons or causes and both of them are very clear in what they mean by this statement. For example, “My father ate so that he could keep his strength up on winter days.” Here it is obvious that this is why my father ate – to stay warm during winter months.

5. The subject first ____ the verb. In this sentence, “so that” is the subject of the sentence, so it comes first in the sentence. On the other hand, “that” is not the subject because it is not a statement but rather an expression with reference to another statement.

6. The verb then ____ an object. As we just discussed above, “that” is not a subject but rather an expression and it is a part of another statement: “My father ate so that he could keep his strength up on winter days.” This means that my father ate on (because of) and for (in order to) keeping his strength up during winter months.

7. The object then ____ something doing something or having something done to it, ____ ____. The object is doing something or having something done to it and the subject performs action on the object. Thus, in our sentence

“My father ate so that he could keep his strength up on winter days,” my father eats, he is doing something to eat and it is his eating (action) that keeps his strength up during winter months. But this means that “so” refers back to “that” which was discussed above as an expression with reference to another statement:

“My father ate so that he could keep his strength up on winter days.” In other words, it’s still my father who eats, but as mentioned above when we discussed this word’s meaning, “so” refers back to “that” as a part  of another statement.

And then, “that” is the subject of the first sentence. This is an example of a sentence with a subordinate clause as the main clause and an independent clause as the subordinate clause.

The dependent  clause can be referred to as the main clause which is held together by “so” and “that”. The above example represents a type of English sentence called an English subordinate clause .

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English has no reason, no logic!

In English, purpose can be expressed with the help of “so that.” For example, you might say “I went to the store so that I could buy groceries.” This means that your main reason for going to the store was to purchase groceries.

Why Do We Use the Words So and That?

When we want to talk about purpose in English, we use words like so and that. So explains why something exists, while that tells us what the purpose of something is.

Here are some examples:

So, she wanted to eat dinner before her meeting.

This sentence explains why the speaker decided to have dinner. The purpose of dinner is to give the speaker enough time to finish her meeting.

Conclusion

In this article, I will be discussing the use of “so that” to express purpose in English. This verb is used to introduce a subordinate clause that explains or justifies the main clause. The most common use for “so that” is when someone wants to explain why something happened:

John wanted to go out with his friends so he could have some fun.

The reason John wanted to go out was so that he could have some fun.

Thank you for reading!

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This was written by me. Bryce Purnell, founder of Learn Laugh Speak.

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2 thoughts on “Using “So That” To Express Purpose in English

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