So or such

There were .......... few people around, the streets were almost deserted.

 

a) too   b) enough   c) so   d) such

 

I think (d)  is the right answer because the space is followed by ( adjective + noun ). But, I often hear " so few " and " too few ". In case my guess was right, can you tell me why (a) and (c) aren't suitable? Thanks.

 

P.S. I took this question from an outside book called " the best ".

 

Original Post

Yama,

Thank you for citing your source and for taking the time to explain how you arrived at the answer you chose.

The correct answer is actually (c).  The same rule applies as in your other recent So or such thread, which is that "such" modifies a noun phrase, but "so" modifies an adjective or adverb.

So, why not (a)?  The construct "so [+ adjective]" often wants to be followed by a "that ... " clause expressing result.  Here, the word "that" is understood:

c': There were so few people around [that] the streets were almost deserted.

but in the example from the earlier thread ("It's so hot outside that I can't go shopping."), it's written out.

In contrast, "too" does not invite such a clause.  If we choose (a) instead of (c), we get a comma-splice error (two independent clauses joined by a comma; also known as a run-on sentence):

Wrong: a': *There were too few people around, the streets were almost deserted.
Right: a'': There were too few people around.  The streets were almost deserted.
Right: a''': There were too few people around; the streets were almost deserted.

Also, "too few" implies that there is a minimum requirement that has been violated.  I would prefer "very" instead of "too" in (a'') and (a''').

DocV

I agree with DocV that "so" is the correct answer:

  • There were so few people around, the streets were almost deserted.

I have a small doubt, DocV. Would you say that comma is correct? I would have said:

  • There were so few people around the streets were almost deserted.

I think (d)  is the right answer because the space is followed by ( adjective + noun )

That's an interesting point, Yama. It is true that adjectives are usually preceded by "such" in that kind of constructions, for example:

  • There were such beautiful girls around he couldn't avoid gazing at them.

Now, why does "few" take "so" and not "such"? Because it is not an adjective, but a determiner that indicates quantity, like little, many, much.

We can thus say:

  • There were so many people around I could hardly move.
  • There was so much noise around I could hardly hear a word.
  • There was so little fresh air inside the room I could hardly breathe.

Gustavo,

Thank you for your input here.  With regard to the comma, my sense is that it is optional when "that" is omitted, but should definitely be left out when "that" is included.

In A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, Quirk et al appear to support this opinion by their examples (see §15.74), but they don't state it as a rule.

DocV

Thank you both. 

 

Gustavo said " 

That's an interesting point, Yama. It is true that adjectives are usually preceded by "such" in that kind of constructions, for example:

  • There were such beautiful girls around he couldn't avoid gazing at them.

Now, why does "few" take "so" and not "such"? Because it is not an adjective, but a determiner that indicates quantity, like little, many, much."

 

According to what I know, "such"  doesn't need to be followed by an adjective. It can be followed by a (noun) as in this sentence:

 

* She had such beauty that everyone was attracted to her.

 

If this is true, why can't we use such? I mean, it's followed by " people ". 

 

 

Yama posted:
According to what I know, "such"  doesn't need to be followed by an adjective. It can be followed by a (noun) as in this sentence:

* She had such beauty that everyone was attracted to her.

Hi, Yama: That sentence works because beauty is a noun relating to an adjective: beautiful. The sentence means: "She was so beautiful that everyone was attracted to her." (I'd use that construction instead.) So, you could make up similar sentence pairs with courage/courageous, loyalty/loyal, fear/afraid, etc. I believe I am in agreement with everything DocV and Gustavo have said above. Such does not work at all in your sentence.

Yama,

A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Quirk et al, in §15.74, says:

The adverb so premodifies an adjective or adverb, whereas the predeterminer such precedes a noun phrase.  The adjective premodified by so may itself premodify the head of a noun phrase.

One of the examples they give is:

So few people came to the meeting that it was adjourned.

What is happening here is that "few" modifies "people", but "so" modifies only "few", not the entire noun phrase "few people".  By way of contrast, in Gustavo's example:

There were such beautiful girls around he couldn't avoid gazing at them.

"such" modifies the entire noun phrase "beautiful girls".

DocV

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