The Sunday Magazine

Think Again — So... why do we start sentences with the word "so"?

In our new series, Michael ponders some of the imponderables of modern life. In our first episode, linguist Sali A. Tagliamonte author of Teen Talk: The Language of Adolescents, tackles our collective habit of starting every sentence with the word "So..."
Right: Sali Tagliamonte, Linguist and Professor at the University of Toronto (photo courtesy of Sali Tagliamonte); Left: Courtesy of Shutterstock

So…perhaps you have noticed, as have we, an increasing propensity to use the word "so."   

Not as an adverb, as in, "I am so confused." 

Not as a conjunction, as in, "She used a crowbar, so it was easy to lift."

Not as a pronoun, as in, "There were five or so kumquats in the fridge." 

Not as an adjective, as in, "Say it isn't so." 

Not even as an idiom, as in, "I can only sneeze so many times in a row before I wet my pants."

We are talking about the use of the word "so" as a verbal tic… often at the beginning of sentences and sometimes even at the end. 

In this segment, we take a look at why it seems we are now using the word "so" so often.  It is part one of a new occasional series we are launching today on The Sunday Edition.

It's called, "Think Again" — a second look at things we might think are true with people who actually know whether they are.

Sali Tagliamonte shared her insights on the use and abuse of the word "so." She is the Canada Research Chair in Language Variation and Change, and a professor of linguistics at the University of Toronto. Professor Tagliamonte is also the author of Teen Talk: The Language of Adolescents.

Click 'listen' above to hear the full interview. 


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