so fun, such fun

Long ago, I was asked about so fun versus such fun. Martin Ball, this one's for you! 

So, fun started out in English (1600s) as a verb meaning to 'trick, cheat, deceive'. You could fun someone out of their money. Then by the 1700s, it had become a noun meaning 'light-hearted enjoyment'. At that point, it was very much considered to be slang. Its respectability as a noun has increased over the centuries, but it may still feel a little informal. 

Elephant & Piggie books
= much recommended

When it's a noun, you can modify it for amount with the kinds of amount-modifiers (quantifiers) that go with uncountable nouns:

  1. we had a lot of fun 
  2. The evening wasn't much fun
But these days, it's also used as an adjective. Adjectives modify nouns, and those nouns usually go after the adjective or, as in the second example here, after a linking verb. Adjectives can be modified by adverbs of various types, underlined in the following:

        3.    a very fun evening
        4.    The evening wasn't terribly fun

Examples 2 and 4 look similar (the fun is after a linking verb, was), but we can tell that 2 is a noun because it's modified by a quantifier (much) and 4 is an adjective because it's modified by an adverb (terribly). 

(Merrill Perlman, writing for Visual Thesaurus, notes that: "Nearly everyone... opposes 'funner' and 'funnest' as anything but kid-speak or deliberate irony.)")

Now, I say "these days" fun can be an adjective, but it's been an adjective for quite a while. Here are the first five adjective examples from the OED. The 1853 one is American, the rest are British.

Is there an AmE/BrE difference to be found here? 

Well, let's start with the fact that Americans seem to have more fun. In the Corpus of Global Web-Based English, the American sub-corpus has 151 instances of fun per million words, while the British sub-corpus has 129 per million. Most of that difference is due to greater AmE use of the adjective:

This helps us explain why my friend Martin noticed more so fun in AmE and such fun in BrE. So goes with adjectives, such with nouns, and AmE uses fun more as an adjective and BrE more as a noun.

What also helps explain it is that AmE (these days) uses more so modification of adjectives. (There's a study on the effect of the tv show Friends on so. Given that Friends has been obsessively watched in the UK for decades now, you'd think there'd be as much so here. But no.)

Still, the modifiers of adjectival fun are not too different in US and UK. Really is the most common modifier in both. Number 2 in the US is so and in the UK is quite. But number 3 in the UK is so (the American #3 is very).

For the noun, such fun is heard about twice as much in the UK as the US. This doesn't seem to be because such is more common in BrE generally. Such fun is just such a British thing to say.

When fun is a noun, it's common to talk about so much fun. What strikes me about such fun is it is so much fun minus the 'o m'.  And so fun is so much fun minus the much

Anyway, it's been so/such fun writing about this. Get in on the fun by leaving a comment! 


  1. Too much fun to read alone!

  2. "Such fun" also has some specifically British pop-cultural impetus from being a catchphrase in Miranda Hart's sitcom Miranda of the title character's mother, played by Patricia Hodge, one of the series' three ever-present cast members (alongside Hart herself and Tom Ellis; Sarah Hadland is in all but the episode in the office of a therapist played by Mark Heap).

  3. I would agree - the phrase "such fun" immediately makes me think of Miranda

  4. 52yo Brit here. I can't imagine myself ever saying "so fun" or "very fun".

    1. Ditto (although 63yo)

    2. In about 1965, the American exchange teacher at my school asked us if we had found his lesson 'a fun experience'. We girls were completely bemused by this use of the word - not because we hadn't had fun (= enjoyment) but because we had never heard the word used as an adjective.
      'Such fun' had been used as a catch phrase in a sit-com around that time - it was used by 'the posh one' in a series about young girls in a flat together.

  5. Regarding 'so', nobody seems to say 'thank you very much' any more: it's always 'thank you so much'. I like to imagine people saying that are holding their hands a certain distance apart to indicate the exact measure of their gratitude.

    1. Oh, I disagree with you there! To me (BrE, 70s) "Thank you very much" sounds formal and polite; "Thank you so much!" sounds as though you really are grateful. Having said that, I'd never say something was "so fun"; it sound very childish.

    2. Thank you so much implies you're incredibly grateful if you stress the 'so', but people say it with flat intonation and all they really mean is 'thank you'. It's linguistic inflation. What are they going to say when they really are extremely grateful?

    3. Where I grew up, it was 'Cor, ta very much'.

  6. I've never seen the Miranda Hart sitcom mentioned above. But I was reminded of the song "Such Fun" by The Blood. I guess that's more of a "punk culture" reference than a "pop culture" reference.

  7. 65 yo Brit here. Not only can I not imagine myself saying "so fun", I find it really grates when others do. Totally irrational I know, but it does. Apart from "such fun", I think the qualifier I'm most likely to use is "great fun".

  8. The phrase that has stuck in my head since reading this post is "such larks!". I can't quite place it but it seems to be associated in my crumbling memory with fictional posh English children from the early C20th.

    1. Joe Gargery in Great Expectations?

    2. I think the actual quote from Great Expectations is "What larks, Pip", but I found this comment:

      "Such larks!" has become quite a catch-phrase as the old-fashioned equivalent of "What fun!" I had an English teacher around 1960 who would say "What jolly fun!" - equally outdated today.

      in a thread about the meaning of 'larks' here:

  9. Older BrEnglish speaker here. I don't think I've ever heard 'so fun'. It sounds odd and unnatural to me. It's either 'such fun' or 'so funny'.

  10. The Fun adjective got a boost a few years ago from Fun Home, a memoir by Alison Bechdel that became a successful musical. ("Fun Home" is what she and her family called the funeral home she grew up in.)


The book!

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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)