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What is the function of the "as"?

English grammar help. Grammar questions from ESL learners

Moderator: Alan

Postby Alan » Fri Sep 10, 2004 5:06 am

It is interesting that "teaches school" is considered a "sentence". I believe it is in fact in "a category of a phrase" because "sentence" or "clause" must have at least "a subject + a verb", isn't it? I think the categorization is based on increasing "an efficiency of a classification".

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Yes. The term 'sentential' needs to be understood with the slightly extended meaning of 'referring to a sentence or a (major) part thereof'. The similiarities here clearly outweigh the differences, in that exactly the same two pronouns ('which' and 'as'), and only those two, may take sentences, complete or partial, as antecedents.
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How about "than"? When I came across a sentence with "than", I think it is similar with "as" when it comes to "elliptical sentential antecedent".

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An interesting idea, but with one fatal flaw, which is that than-clauses modify adjectives or adverbs, while relative clauses (of which the sentential is a very particular kind) modify only nominals.

The apparent pronominality of 'than' in the cases you cite is due simply to ellipsis. To see why, it's probably best to go back to the most basic kind of than-sentence, to see how it works: in

[1] That book is more interesting than this one.

what we are really saying is

[1a] That book is more interesting than this one IS.

or, reconstituted fully (if unidiomatically):

[1b] That book is more interesting than this one IS INTERESTING.

in other words, one book is interesting to a greater extent (i.e. more) than another book is interesting. The than-clause adverbially modifies the adjective phrase 'more interesting' by specifying in comparison with what the statement applies.

If we now replace the two-word phrase [more+ADJ] with a single comparative form, which has the meaning of 'more' built in to it (so to speak), the same thing applies, even if the reconstituted full form sounds even less idiomatic than in the case of [1], so that

[2] He is taller than I am.

means

[2a] He is taller than I am TALL.

since 'taller' represents 'more tall'.

And there is, of course, no difference where the than-clause modifies an adverb rather than an adjective, so that

[3] He runs faster than you do.

represents putative full-form

[3a] He runs faster (i.e. 'fast to a greater degree') than you run fast.

We might also, rather than a simple comparison of two things or people as in the examples above, have a comparison between, say, reality and expectation, as in

[4] He ran faster than (we had) expected.

, elliptical for

[4a] He ran faster than we had expected THAT HE WOULD RUN FAST.

The extent of the ellipsis may be greater but the principle, once again, remains the same.

If we turn now to 'as' and attempt, in the same way, to insert supposedly ellipted words into a sentential as-clause on the assumption that it also is merely a conjunction in disguise, we run up against difficulties. Consider, for instance, the sentential clause of

[5] As I was saying, he's a very good student.

Let us now treat 'as' as a conjunction, and attempt to reinsert what must then have been ellipted. Clearly, 'I was saying' cannot be considered a complete phrase since it lacks an object. If 'as' is a conjunction, then the object must have been ellipted. What then was it? As nothing seems to present itself naturally from the context, let us try an expletive 'it'. What do we then get?

[5a] *As I was saying it, he's a very good student.

- a nonsentence! And, indeed, whatever noun or pronoun we may try to insert, we will similarly end up producing nonsense.

In other cases, although we may produce a structurally acceptable sentence, it clearly does not have the intended meaning. If, for instance, we insert an 'it' in the predicate-focused sentential as-clause of

[6] She has resigned following the scandal, AS she was obliged to do.

we get semantically different, not to say peculiar,

[6a] ?She has resigned following the scandal, AS she was obliged to do it.

where the subordinate clause has now become an adverbial clause of reason (containing a pronoun with no apparent referent), and has effectively lost all connection with the original.

For these reasons, I hope you can understand why we reckon sentential 'as' to be a true pronoun (if one limited in scope), whereas 'than', despite certain superficial similarities, is only ever a conjunction.
Last edited by Alan on Mon Sep 13, 2004 6:37 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby pdh0224 » Fri Sep 10, 2004 6:19 am

Alan wrote: It may not be reckoned a true preposition for the simple reason that such as-phrases always have an implicit subject (he who is acting or speaking in the capacity or role of...), which must be the same as that of the matrix clause. (Thus, in the example above, it is I who am your friend, and I who am giving the advice). True prepositional phrases, in comparison, do not have 'subjects', but act simply as adjectival or adverbial modifiers.


How about "like"?

He work like a beaver.

He look like his father.

Q1 :The preposition "like" have an implicit subject. Is "like" not also a "true preposition"?
(I think all of elements in a sentence have a subject whether it is implicit or explicit.

ex) I go to school.

Although "to school" modifies "go" as an adverbial phrase, it has connection with "I" through a verb "go". Conclusively, everyting in setence elements are rooted in a subject whether it is implicit or explicit, except for an occasion that a phrase has another explicit/inplicit subject ,for example, "for..to..." structure , an omission of a gerneral subject or an ellipsis of subject that can be guessed in context.

What do you think?



Q2 :"Like" also functions as a conjuction.

"She looked like she was about to cry."

What is differet between "as" and "Like" ?
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Postby Alan » Sun Sep 12, 2004 3:47 am

How about "like"?

He work like a beaver.

He look like his father.

Q1 :The preposition "like" have an implicit subject. Is "like" not also a "true preposition"?

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As the term is generally understood in grammar, only a verb form may properly be said to have a 'subject'. (When we speak of the 'implicit subject' of a quasi-prepositional as-phrase being the same as that of the matrix clause - very much a special case, since that kind of phrase originates as a full clause - we mean that the referent of the noun following 'as' is identified with
that of the word constituting the sentence subject: i.e. the two terms denote, in reality, one and the same thing or person.)

We cannot meaningfully speak of the 'subject' of a modifier (including the prepositional phrase): this has only a REFERENT, i.e. the sentence element (the nominal, adnominal, verb or adverbial) to which it applies.

The preposition 'like' is, in origin, a predicative adjective or adverb: in older forms of English, the correct construction was 'like TO (me)'. It has now shed its once obligatory complemental to-phrase to govern the noun directly, and is thus classified, in the modern language, as a full preposition. Unlike 'as', however, it has no affinities - historical or actual - with conjunctions. There is, therefore, in the phrase 'like my father' nothing that could be described as a subject, only an object - 'my father'.

Perhaps it would be helpful to look at some examples to see more clearly the difference between quasi-prepositional 'as' and (preposition) 'like'. Compare, for instance

[1] As your friend, I would advise you to take action.

and

[2] Like your friend, I would advise you to take action.

In [1], I - the subject of the matrix clause - am representing myself, not simply as similar to, but as actually being 'your friend' of the as-phrase, whereas in [2] I am not: I am simply saying that my advice to you is the same as that given by your friend (another person).

Does this help?
Last edited by Alan on Mon Sep 13, 2004 6:41 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby pdh0224 » Sun Sep 12, 2004 6:56 am

Yes, Thank you for your great teaching :D

Now, I could know whether the sentence "This is freedom as we generally understand it" is right or not.

As you mentioned,

[5] As I was saying, he's a very good student.

[5a] *As I was saying it, he's a very good student.

That is applied to

This is freedom as we generally understand

*This is freedom as we generally understand it


But I have no idea about this sentence.

"Cliff Fleming, the pilot of the lead helicopter, was to make the first attempt to snag the parafoil with a 20-foot hook in the back of the helicopter. Mr. Fleming said that except for one deliberate miss as a test for the other pilot, Dan Rudert, he successfully caught the parachute in every practice run."

I think "as a test for the other pilot" modifies "one deliberate miss". But I can't applied a quasi-prepositional conjuction or a sentential relative noun function to it. As you know, a conjuction can't function as the adnominal. There is no a antecedential sentence around "as". Could you explain me about the sentence?
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Postby Alan » Sun Sep 12, 2004 11:29 pm

Actually, the second sentence

This is freedom as we generally understand it.

, not the first, is correct!

This 'as' is not a pronoun, but a conjunction, and the sentence means 'this is freedom IN THE WAY IN WHICH we generally understand it' (it = (the concept of) freedom).

Compare that with

As you can probably understand, I am reluctant to agree.

where 'as' functions as a sentential relative.

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But I have no idea about this sentence.

"Cliff Fleming, the pilot of the lead helicopter, was to make the first attempt to snag the parafoil with a 20-foot hook in the back of the helicopter. Mr. Fleming said that except for one deliberate miss as a test for the other pilot, Dan Rudert, he successfully caught the parachute in every practice run."

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The sentence is poorly constructed, and should ideally be rearranged so that the as-phrase (intended as a quasi-prepositional) occurs in the clause with Dan Rudert as subject.
Last edited by Alan on Sun Dec 10, 2006 10:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby pdh0224 » Mon Sep 13, 2004 12:44 am

Alan wrote:Actually, the second sentence

This is freedom as we generally understand it.

, not the first, is correct!

This 'as' is not a pronoun, but a conjunction, and the sentence means 'this is freedom IN THE WAY IN WHICH we generally understand it' (it = (the concept of) freedom).

Compare that with

As you can probably understand, I am reluctant to agree.

where 'as' functions as a sentential relative.


The sentence I mentioned is in a dictionary. It said the "as-clause" modifies "freedom". But "Clause" Do Not modifies a noun as the adnominal, doesn't it? :?:



Alan wrote:"Cliff Fleming, the pilot of the lead helicopter, was to make the first attempt to snag the parafoil with a 20-foot hook in the back of the helicopter. Mr. Fleming said that except for one deliberate miss as a test for the other pilot, Dan Rudert, he successfully caught the parachute in every practice run."

***********************************************

The sentence is poorly constructed, and should ideally be rerarranged so that the as-phrase (intended as a quasi-prepositional) occurs in the clause with Dan Rudert as subject.


Q1 : Could a quasi-prepositional conjunction "as" modify a noun as an adnominal?

Q2 : It is difficult to reconstruct the sentence. Could you show me the well-arranged sentence?
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Postby Alan » Mon Sep 13, 2004 6:25 am

The sentence I mentioned is in a dictionary. It said the "as-clause" modifies "freedom". But "Clause" Do Not modifies a noun as the adnominal, doesn't it?
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Then, with all due respect, I must disagree with the dictionary! The clause is adverbial, not relative ('as' plainly has no pronominal function within it, but simply introduces it as a conjunction), and as such cannot meaningfully be said to modify a noun.

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Q1 : Could a quasi-prepositional conjunction "as" modify a noun as an adnominal?
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No: neither prepositions nor conjunctions can ever modify anything!

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Q2 : It is difficult to reconstruct the sentence. Could you show me the well-arranged sentence?

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Agreed, it is difficult, which is probably why the writer took the 'easy way out' and wrote it this way. However, if pushed, I would suggest something along the lines of

"Mr. Fleming said that, except for one deliberate miss that he had made when doing a test for the other pilot, Dan Rudert, he successfully caught the parachute in every practice run."

with no as-phrase at all!
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Postby pdh0224 » Mon Sep 13, 2004 6:36 am

Alan wrote:The sentence I mentioned is in a dictionary. It said the "as-clause" modifies "freedom". But "Clause" Do Not modifies a noun as the adnominal, doesn't it?
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Then, with all due respect, I must disagree with the dictionary! The clause is adverbial, not relative ('as' plainly has no pronominal function within it, but simply introduces it as a conjunction), and as such cannot meaningfully be said to modify a noun



Let me show you one more thing. The dictionary said "as" also can function as an adjective by showing the example like this.

I attended the meeting in my capacity as adviser.

It said "as adviser" modifies "capacity". I think "as adviser" modifies "attended" as an adverb, doesn't it?
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Postby Alan » Mon Sep 13, 2004 9:39 am

Let me show you one more thing. The dictionary said "as" also can function as an adjective by showing the example like this.

I attended the meeting in my capacity as adviser.


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I can't say that I could agree with that analysis! The word 'as' itself cannot in any way be considered as belonging to the form-class 'adjectives', but, as a connector, it does introduce phrases/clauses that are adjectival in function. One type is the relative clause, where 'as' functions as a relative pronoun or adverb. The other is the as-phrase, introduced by 'as' functioning as quasi-prepositional conjunction, whose typical meaning is 'speaking/acting in the role/capacity of ...' (and which is thus structurally equivalent to a combination of participial phrase and prepositional phrase). The as-clause in the example you cite represents a slight variation on this (something closer to 'in which I act in the role of...'), but is still plainly adjectival since the phrase as a whole serves the same function as the adjective 'advisory' in 'in my advisory capacity'.
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Postby pdh0224 » Mon Sep 13, 2004 11:01 am

As you mentioned, "as" in the sentence functions as an adjective like a preposition phrase. Why don't we add the function of a preposition to one of functions of "as" ,in addition to the relative clause and the as-phrase, rather than we consider it as a variation usage? I think it is more efficient classification,isn't it ?
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