Difference between so, very, and a lot

Use “a lot of” before nouns.

“A lot of” + noun means a large quantity or a high number. “A lot of” can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns.

There were a lot of students in the classroom.
I drank a lot of water during the marathon.

Common Error: Don’t use “very” with nouns!

There were very students in the classroom.
There were a lot of students in the classroom.
There were many students in the classroom.

Use “a lot” after verbs.

Verb + “a lot” means “very much” or “frequently”:

like this singer a lot. = I like this singer very much.

She travels a lot for work. = She travels frequently for work.

Common Error: “A lot” is always two words, never one word!

I studied alot for the English test.
I studied a lot for the English test.

Use “so” and “very” before adjectives:

“So” is used with “that” to add extra information – usually a result or consequence:

Last night I was very tired.
Last night I was so tired that I almost fell asleep while driving.

This book is very interesting.
This book is so interesting that I stayed up until 3 AM reading it!

She plays the piano very well.
She plays the piano so well that people often ask if she’s a professional.

Common Error: Don’t use “a lot” with adjectives:

Last night I was a lot tired.

Informal Spoken English:

In informal spoken English, it’s common to use “really” instead of “very”:

Last night I was really tired.
This book is really interesting.
She plays the piano really well.

However, you can’t substitute “really” for “so.”

Also, in informal spoken English some people use “so” without adding extra information, particularly when making an exclamation:

Your dog is so cute!
It’s so windy today!
That test was so hard!