So (sentence opener)

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So is an English word that, apart from its other uses, has become increasingly popular in recent years as a coordinating conjunctive opening word in a sentence. This device is particularly used when answering questions although the questioner may also use the device.

Historical use

The first known written use of so as a sentence opener is in several lines of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, published in the mid-1380s, for example:[1][2]

So graunte hem sone out of this world to pace (So grant him soon out of this world to pass);

So as a sentence opener has been used in later historical literary works such as:[1]

It is widely believed that the recent ascendancy of so as a sentence opener began in Silicon Valley. Michael Lewis, in his book The New New Thing, published in 1999, noted that “When a computer programmer answers a question, he often begins with the word ‘so.’ ” Microsoft employees have long argued that the “so” boom began with them.[1][2][3]


Various suggestions have been made as to its purpose:

  • as a coordinating conjunctive to refer backwards to something previously mentioned
  • as a discourse marker[4][5]
  • to signal that the following words are chosen for their relevance to the listener[6]
  • to provide a small amount of extra thinking time[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Melissa (23 September 2015). "So, When Did We Start Introducing Sentences with So?". Today I Found Out. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  2. ^ a b Anand Giridharadas (21 May 2010). "Follow My Logic? A Connective Word Takes the Lead". The New York Times.
  3. ^ Origins of using "so" as a sentence opener Boing Boing Mark Frauenfelder 17 June 2010
  4. ^ So… why is everyone saying “so?" USA Today Haley Goldberg 14 February 2014
  5. ^ Galina B. Bolden Implementing incipient actions: The discourse marker ‘so’ in English conversation Journal of Pragmatics Vol 41 Issue 5 May 2009, P 974–998
  6. ^ Do you use “so” to manage conversations?
  7. ^ It’s so annoying. So why do people feel compelled to start every sentence with ‘so’? The Spectator Mark Mason 5 November 2011

Further reading

  • So does starting a sentence with 'so' annoy you? BBC 21 Nov 2011
  • So, here's a carefully packaged sentence that shows me in my best light The Guardian Oliver James 26 Jul 2013
  • So, here's why it's OK to start a sentence with 'So' Today Meghan Holohan 15 May 2014
  • So It Turns Out That Everyone’s Starting Sentences With ‘So’ The Chronicle of Higher Education Ben Yagoda 2 Dec 2011
  • So, What's The Big Deal With Starting A Sentence With 'So'? NPR Geoff Nunberg 3 Sep 2015
  • So, Why Start Sentences With 'So?' KMUW Lael Ewy Oct 21, 2014
  • So Here's Why Everyone Is Starting Sentences With The Word 'So' Business Insider Christina Sterbenz 12 May 2014
  • SO wrong! Why John Humphrys is in a rage at such a little word after it invades everyday speech Daily Mail Sam Creighton 20 Jun 2015

External links

  • The "so" panel on "Global with Jon Sopel" BBC World News 22 May 2014
  • Q&A: Why do I always begin my sentences with 'So'?
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