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Below is a piece of writing I borrowed from Delmobile. Delmobile, I hope you don't mind.

Mama used to pay us a penny for every dead fly. Seems like we spent every Saturday morning from May to September swatting flies. We used to flip a coin to see who got to use the pink plastic butterfly-shaped flyswatter Mama got from Union Homestead Savings and Loan. The loser had to use a rolled-up newspaper, which didn't work nearly so well.

My question is what is the difference between "work so well", "work well" and "work nearly so well"?

Thanks
Comments  
"didn't work so well" - Newspaper not as effective as the pink plastic flyswatter.
" didn't work well" - Newspaper not an effective tool - no comparison with another tool.
" didn't work nearly so well" Pink plastic flyswatter is much much more effective than newspaper. More emphasis on the difference in effectiveness.
which didn't work well - it was not effective - no comparison with anything else.
which didn't work so well - it was not effective compared to something else - it was less effective than something else.

which didn't work nearly so well - it was not at all effective compared to something else - it was much, much less effective than something else.
Note similar turns of phrase in which one thing is said to be very much inferior to another:

Vanilla is not nearly so/as good as chocolate.
Vanilla is not anywhere near so/as good as chocolate.
Vanilla is nowhere near so/as good as chocolate.
(Personally, I usually say as, not so.)
CJ
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Thsi is a surprise to me.

I have 2 questions:

Does it mean I can change the orignal to "didn't work anywhere near as well?"

Wow..he is so great! (There's no comparison involved. Is the sentence still correct? I'm shocked that so is used in comparison. I've always thought that it is done only by 'as')
Does it mean I can change the orignal to "didn't work anywhere near as well?" Yes, you can

The loser had to use a rolled-up newspaper, which didn't work nearly so well.

The loser had to use a rolled-up newspaper, which didn't work anywhere near as/so well. - For me, either can be used.

Wow..he is so great! (There's no comparison involved. Is the sentence still correct? I'm shocked that so is used in comparison. I've always thought that it is done only by 'as')

Wow ....... he is not so great as he used to be.
Wow..he is so great! (There's no comparison involved. Is the sentence still correct? I'm shocked that so is used in comparison. I've always thought that it is done only by 'as')

Thanks, Optilang. But it's not clear to me what your answer is. Are you saying my sentence is wrong and you corrected it by makingn a comparison?
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Wow..he is so great!
There is nothing wrong with the above statement.
My answer is, that to make a comparison, we need not so......
Hence, ---
Wow .. he is not so great as he used to be.
Thanks, Optilang.
Hi CJ,
Is this correct?
She is nowhere near as pretty as her sister.
She is not nearly as pretty as her sister.
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