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I've seen these particles used in a metaphoric sense, where a fantastic, implausible scenario is presented for effect:

Тебе, наверное, женщины на шею так и вешаются.

Он так и покатился со смеху.

In these cases in English we say The women must literally be throwing themselves at you, or He was literally rolling with laughter. However, I've also seen так и used with plausible situations, but with somewhat "extreme" verbs that describe things the subject is prone to do, yet to a higher, degree:

Дождь так и льёт.

Солнце так и жжёт.

Ветки так и гнулись под тяжестью яблок.

These make perfect sense to me as I assume they mean The rain was absolutely pouring, or *The sun was absolutely sweltering*, or *The branches were literally bending under the weight of the apples*. However, I was hard put to interpret this same "extremeness" in the following sentence.

Кошка так и ластилась к его ногам.

In what situation would somebody say this and what would they mean?

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I'd say так и describes an action that is intense without necessarily being extreme. About the intensity of "Boy was the cat snuggling at his feet."

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    Aha, so it's more of an emotive contribution to the statement. Thank you very much, that makes perfect sense :) Happy New Year, Nikolay! – CocoPop Dec 30 '16 at 16:58
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    @CocoPop I must split hairs again: expressive, but not necessarily emotive. Happy New Year to you too! – Nikolay Ershov Dec 30 '16 at 17:06
  • Can this same type of expression achieved with как as in: Когда я возвращался домой с работы, она как прыгнет. (This may be incorrect - I'm recalling it from a recent conversation. All I remember is that she said кааак and it struck me that she used the perfective прыгнет). In the scope of my conversation about someone's deceased dog, I can only interpret this as "Boy, did she jump around when I came home from work." – CocoPop Dec 30 '16 at 18:54
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    @CocoPop, "как + perfective verb in future tense" means that the action happened very quickly and often unexpectedly. That кааак is usually pronounced with intentionally prolonged a to prepare the listener, and then follows the verb, pronounced quicker and louder, with emphasis. Here the action happens only once and is completed, that's why perfective verb is used. If the action is repeated multiple times and/or is not completed, than "так и + perfective or imperfective verb in past tense" can be used. For example, Она так и запрыгала от радости ("She started to jump with joy"). – Lara Dec 30 '16 at 20:01
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    @CocoPop, yes, it should have been an unexpected jump, so she was surprised and maybe even frightened. – Lara Dec 31 '16 at 14:27
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The dictionary of Efremova gives three cases of usage "так и":

1. Употребляется при подчеркивании энергичного, интенсивного непроизвольно совершающегося действия.

I beleive this case is describing most of your examples - "Emphasizing of active, intense spontaneously happening action."

2. Употребляется при подчеркивании значения итога, результата предшествующего действия.

(Incorrect) Possibly this definition matches "Он так и покатился со смеху." example - "Is used to emphasize the result of the preceding action" (something happened and as a result he started to laugh").

The correct example is the following: "Вода начала подниматься в восточной части города, добралась до торгового центра, затем до библиотеки, потом до жилых кварталов - так и затопила весь район". - Here you see how step-by-step something happens and "Так и" summarizes what has happened in the end.

Or different example: "Он пошел купить себе костюм. В одном магазине ему не понравился продавец, в другом магазине - не было подходящего цвета, в третьем - не понравились пуговицы - так и остался он без костюма."

3. Употребляется для усиления эмоционально окрашенного несогласия или отрицания.

This case is absent in your examples - "Is used for emphasizing emotional agreement or disagreement" - like "Так и нет".

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  • Thank you, Artemix, this is very interesting. Incidentally, I recently wrote something about my experiences after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and attempted to use так и as follows: "Мне-то повезло, ведь моя квартира находилась в той части города, где не было наводнений. Но когда я встретил Лиз в аэропорту, она сказала мне, что болото так и поглотило её район." My Russian friend said that it didn't work here, but couldn't tell me why. What do you think? – CocoPop Dec 31 '16 at 13:08
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    This is example 2. "The result of preceding action". The action should be described as well. To make it work you need to describe what happened from the start to the end: "Вода начала подниматься в восточной части города, добралась до торговый центр, затем до библиотеки, потом до жилых кварталов - так и затопила весь район". – Artemix Jan 1 '17 at 10:19
  • So in other words, it has to further a concrete process in order to make sense? Got it! Happy New Year :) – CocoPop Jan 1 '17 at 13:16
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    @CocoPop It can help to find out what is working here if I'll put a special clause, which makes your excerpt unambiguous: ` … Но когда я встретил Лиз в аэропорту, она сказала мне, что болото так и поглотило её район, как это предсказывали спасатели.` – Avtokod Jan 4 '17 at 4:48

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