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What's the difference between あまり and ほど when saying 'so much...that'?

For example:

トムは驚きのあまり何も言えなかった。
Tom was so surprised that he was speechless.

トムは驚くほど何も言えなかった。
(Tom was so surprised that he was speechless.)?

Or:

ピンが落ちた音が聞こえるあまり、静かだった。
(It was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop.) ?

ピンが落ちた音が聞こえるほど、静かだった。
It was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop.

  • 1
    ピンを落た音 ← Did you mean to say 「ピンを[落]{お} とした音」, 「ピン [落]{お} た音」, or 「ピン [落]{お} た音」? – Chocolate Nov 27 '17 at 13:03
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Basically, the main difference lies on whether the focus is placed on the cause or effect in a given situation.

Though you will need to change the sentence structure around, you can describe a cause-and-effect situation by using either 「あまり」 or 「ほど」.

「(cause + あまり) + effect」 places (at least slightly) more focus on the effect.

「トムは驚{おどろ}きのあまり何{なに}も言{い}えなかった。」= "Tom was so surprised that he was speechless."

「静{しず}かなあまり、ピンが落{お}ちる音{おと}(が/さえ/さえも)聞{き}こえた。」 = "It was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop."

(effect + ほど) + cause」 places (at least slightly) more focus on the cause.

「トムは何も言えないほど驚いた。」 = "Tom was surprised to the extent that he became speechless."

「ピンが落ちる音が聞こえるほど静かだった。」 = "It was quiet to the extent that you could hear a pin drop."

You will need to form/read/hear hundreds of sentences like these to get a feel of the usages.

Thus, two of your four sentences sound quite awkward and make little sense to us native speakers. Those are:

「トムは驚くほど何も言えなかった。」

and

「ピンが落ちた音が聞こえるあまり、静かだった。」

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