'So that' vs. 'In order that'. What's the Difference?

"So that" and "in order that" have the same meaning and are used in the same way. They both are subordinating conjunctions that express purpose, and are always followed by a subject and a verb.

"So that" and "in order that" have the same meaning and are used in the same way. They both are subordinating conjunctions that express purpose, and are always followed by a subject and a verb.

We use standard protocols (in order that/so that) people can create their own networking systems.

Which Is More Common?

"So that" is much more common than "in order that":

Relative frequency of the conjunctions in order that and so that
"So that" vs. "In order that" in books through time
Source: Google Books Ngram Viewer

Which Is More Formal?

"In order that" sounds very formal. This structure can be used in very formal speech or writing.

Different educational centers were involved in order that participants could expand their technical skills.

"So that" can be used in formal and semiformal contexts. In very informal situations, "that" is sometimes omitted.

My daughter went to bed early so she could get up on time this morning.

Structure and Usage

Since they are subordinating constructions, you can start a sentence with "in order that" or "so that". In this case, add a comma after the introductory phrase.

(In order that/So that) Rebecca could resume his career, she attended a drug-rehabilitation program.

(In order that/So that) Rebecca could resume his career she attended a drug-rehabilitation program.

Notice that after "in order that" and “so that”, we usually use a modal verb, such as can, could, would, etc.

Nancy is learning Chinese so that she can live in Beijing.

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