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What is the difference between also and so? Do they all mean 'so'?

  1. Jana war nicht im Park, also bin ich nach Hause zurückgekehrt.

  2. Jana war nicht im Park, so bin ich nach Hause zurückgekehrt.

Are so and also interchangeable?

13

The German so and also as well as the English counterparts come from a word that meant

In that way

The German so has kept this meaning pretty much while the English so has evolved. One of its functions is a conjunction that expresses consequence. The German so does not have that function at all. A proper translation would be German also

I was tired so I went to bed.

Ich war müde, also bin ich ins Bett gegangen.

On a side note: German also is an adverb rather than a conjunction so you can move it to different places in your sentence. German so and also are never interchangeable. If you want a more detailed comparison between German and English, you can check out the post I've written about this on my blog.

  • 1
    You say "so and also are never interchangeable", but IMHO the example given above is exactly such a case. E.g. in literature you can find expressions like "..., so zog er denn unverrichteter Dinge von Dannen.", which in meaning is identical to "..., also ging er wieder, ohne seine Arbeit zu tun." – dog Dec 5 '13 at 2:59
  • @dog das wird dann aber eher am Satzanfang gemacht und ich halte es im "Binnendeutsch" für falsch, da "so" in erster Linie "in dieser Weise" heißt. "Ich war müde, so bin ich ins Bett gegangen" klingt falsch für mich und ich würde es als "Ich war müde, und müde bin ich ins Bett gegangen." – Emanuel Dec 5 '13 at 10:06
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They're not interchangeable. Overuse of so where also would be required is one of the most common giveaways of English native speakers in German. Also must be used whenever the English so could be replaced by therefore. The German so almost always means "in that way". "So geht das!" - "that's how it's done!"

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