Unorthodox article placement

In my English class yesterday we looked at the following example:

Monica is such a beautiful woman.

We learned that the above sentence could also be written as:

Monica is so beautiful a woman

I am wondering what the rule for this, to me unorthodox, placement of the article before “woman” is.

Answer

Such and so are degree quantifiers.
Such goes before noun phrases and so goes before adjectives and adverbs; they’re alternants.

Adjectives:

  • She is so good [that she can make anything].
  • She is so good at carpentry [that she can make anything].
  • She is so good as a carpenter [that she can make anything].
  • She is so good a carpenter [that she can make anything].

Noun phrases:

  • She is such a carpenter [that she can make anything].
  • She is such a good carpenter [that she can make anything].

Moreover, so and such comparisons usually come equipped with a that clause, to show just what the standard is for the comparison. That’s their normal use.

It’s also common in some idiolects to use emphasized so or such — without a that clause — as a general emotional intensifier, like very or extremely, but with emotional expression. This can be overdone, and is often satirized, especially when attributed to women. But this is conversational use only, not written, especially not in formal writing.

  • She’s so intelligent. = She’s extremely intelligent (and that impresses me).
  • He’s such a cute little boy. = He’s a very cute little boy (and I find that endearing).

Attribution
Source : Link , Question Author : Sotiris , Answer Author : John Lawler

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