Grammar Chaos: How Far You Should Go—By Far versus So Far As versus As Far As

Posted on Sep 13, 2017

Phrases that use similar words can be pretty confusing, especially when we find them in very different places. Phrases like by far, as far as, and (in) so far as may look similar, but all of them are used for specific purposes. Keep reading to find out.

How far will you go?

By far is actually an idiom that means “by a large amount” or “to an extreme or obvious degree.” It is used to compare something of the same kind to emphasize a difference. This idiom is also similar to “far and away.”

Here are some examples on how to use it.

  1. Sierra Boggess is by far the best soprano I have ever heard sing live.

  2. Aunt May’s is the best pecan pie by far in this competition.

  3. Danny is the best student in the class by far.

The phrases as far as and (in) so far as have similar meanings, which is “to the extent that.” The differences between these two expressions are in usage.

As far as is used a lot more, so it’s a lot more prominent in casual and informal conversations. Moreover, it usually appears at the beginning of the sentence. It is also used to express distance, opinion, and limit of knowledge.

  1. As far as I know, she’s not leading the parade because of her injury.

  2. As far as I’m concerned, Lloyd’s not part of the team anymore.

  3. I plan to go as far as my legs can take me before they collapse.

So far as, however, is the opposite. It is used a lot less in informal conversation, and it is more proper to use in formal communications. The phrase also appears near the end of the sentence. Sometimes, the phrase insofar as is used in its place.

  1. It’s pretty affordable and high quality, so far as generic products go.

  2. The customers are satisfied, so far as I know.

So to summarize, by far means “a large amount,” and both as far as and so far as mean “to a certain extent.” It’s a lot to remember but easy to recall once you get the hang of it.

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Grammar blues got you down? Shoot us a message, and we might be able to help you make sense of how chaotic English grammar can be! See you on the next installment of Grammar Chaos!


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