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Clauses. Purpose (finalidad) – one or two subjects, and about the “so” confusion

February 22, 2013

CEFR B2 level and above. Think about these examples and how they work (function) in language (what they mean). Then, look for an example you can easily remember, and do some Oral Drilling with that structure.

We have various ways in which we can express purpose:

  • The Purpose Infinitive: “Why are you learning English? To travel the world!” “I am writing to suggest ways in which we can improve our fluency while speaking.” With this very common way to indicate purpose we need to have the same subject (“I”) for the two verbs (“learn”, “travel”).
  • So that” (not “So” = result!,* although it is true native speakers may be heard omitting the “that” in “so that”!) “We developed this project so that students could learn/were able to learn how to interact constructively.” This structure allows us to have two different subjects: If instead of two different subjects (“we”, “students”) for the two different tenses (“developed”, “could learn how to/were able to”) we had a same subject (“we”), we could also say: “We developed this project to learn / so as to learn how to interact constructively.”
  • So as to“: this is just like the Purpose Infinitive. “I’m learning English so as to (be able to) travel the world.” Here, again, we need the same subject in both sentences (I learn, I’ll travel).
  • Formal writing: in order to. “We are conducting this survey in order to assess the issue of happiness at work / at the workplace.”

* So = result. Example: It’s raining, so don’t forget to take your umbrella!

There are two other structures indicating purpose you could do some oral drilling on!

  • For + Object + Full Infinitive: This technique is good for us to improve our fluency.
  • For + –ing verb: This tecnique is good for improving fluency.

Compare with:

  • So that + Subject + Verb: She gave us these notes so that we could (possibility) improve our fluency / so that we were able to (ability) improve our fluency.
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