You’ll improve your spoken English fluency if you become more aware of collocations in English. For example, last week we looked at the word ‘so‘, in particular examples with so+much:
“I’ve got so much work to do.”
“I’ve had so much pasta tonight.”
“I’ve got so much to do today.”
If you see so much as a separate unit of lexis or vocabulary, it’ll help you avoid some common mistakes like this:
“I’m so much tired.”
Students make this kind of mistake because they learn that adjectives go after the word ‘so‘, but ‘so much‘ is a different word combination.
[nb You can read more from last week’s post here].
Today let’s take a look at another combination with so:
This is one of the most spoken collocations with the word ‘so‘. It is used to say that there is a very large number or a lot of something.
Here are some words and example sentences which frequently come after so+many:
- There were so many people at the party.
- I’ve got so many things going on right now.
- I understand it on so many different levels.
- There are so many other things to be upset about in the world.
- She’s done so well for so many years.
- We’ve heard about it so many times.
- He’s been wonderful in so many ways.
- Like so many others, she’s found it hard to get a job.
- There are so many questions yet to be answered.
- He had so many issues to deal with growing up.
- I’ve had so many women | men come up to me and say “you’re great!”
[nb This list was created with help from a corpus]
Here are some more words which English speakers use frequently after so many:
What Do You Need To Know..?
1. So many is frequently followed by a plural countable noun.
2. You can also use an adjective before the plural countable noun. For example:
There are so many important issues which we need to discuss.
Examples of other adjectives which follow so many include:
- so many great writers..
- so many young people..
- so many wonderful friends..
- so many innocent victims..
- so many unanswered emails..
- so many incredible stories..
- so many good examples..
Words Which Frequently Come Before ‘SO+MANY’
- There are so many ways we can look at this.
- There’s so many things to do!
Note that native English speakers will say there’s in quick, natural speech even if the noun ends up being plural. In fact, it’s used a lot although some would say it’s a mistake.
- That’s why so many people have decided to stop using social media.
- Why so many?
- I’ve seen so many beautiful girls at the beach today.
- He’s touched so many lives.
- You’ve covered so many stories over the last few years.
- Her work has affected so many lives out there.
- This has been difficult for so many people.
- In so many ways, he’s become the most important player this season.
- We have so many problems to go over.
Other Useful Patterns And Phrases
So many more
There are so many more people we need to help.
So many of
It’s great that so many of you have come tonight.
In so many words
This means to be direct in telling someone something:
eg 1: I told her, in so many words, to stop being rude to you.
Gavin: Did he say he liked her?
Oliver: Well, not in so many words.
So many are
If the noun which you’re referring to is understood from the context, you can leave it out:
Stuart: It’s tough to find work just now.
Lenka: Yeah, so many are struggling.
What’s The Main Point?
There is a big debate among English teachers whether we should be focussing on grammar or whether it should be lexis/vocabulary.
One problem with the grammar-first approach is that you might see English like this:
[Grammar structure] + [single word to complete the sentence]
Eg. I’ve been to…Sydney.
Often there is a focus in English teaching on what is possible in the language and not what is probable.
Personally, I believe you can look at language from both a lexical and a grammatical perspective. This post today is more about seeing possible ‘grammar words’ (so much) as being separate lexical items that interact with other words. When you see how words interact with each other to form collocations, you’ll speak less in a word-by-word way, make fewer mistakes and speak with more flow.
A few other points:
- I’ve checked some of the most common words that go with so much, as you can see above, and I hope it shows you what is natural in English compared to what is simply possible.
- Focussing more on what is natural and what is frequent in the language shows you how the language is really used.
- Focussing on English collocations can get you away from ‘Single Word Syndrome’ – English is in fact full of words which come together frequently (phrasal verbs, idioms, expressions, and so on) and these words together can form a single meaning.
- Many believe that collocations are more memorable for you to learn than simply studying individual words.
- Focussing on what is said in spoken English by native and proficient speakers is the best way to develop your own ‘internal bank’ of English vocabulary. Language comes in chunks (= words that are related to each other eg “in so many ways“) and knowing these chunks helps communicate your message more clearly. It should also be quicker to remember a chunk that is in your ‘language bank’ than having to remember the grammar rule and then implement it in conversation.
- You can look at collocations and see that the grammar is ‘built in’ anyhow, whereas just focussing on grammar won’t do as much to improve your vocabulary.
Ultimately my aim is to present different ideas on learning English for you to discover more about English and how you learn best. If you’ve spent a lot of time on grammar from various coursebooks, try and have a go at seeing language from a lexical point of view, focussing on frequent collocations in English.
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