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To appear to flash as with light.

As with any large organisation, Nokia had a unique problem in how to collaborate on a level playing field with 50,000 employees worldwide.

(in the first example, the meaning is one of the definitions of the verb "to snap")

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2 Answers 2

In the first example, as with may be intended to mean “as if with”; but see below.

In the second example, as with may be understood as “as we find in” or “as is true of”.

Both of these examples are a little questionable.

The first example, defining snap as it is used in utterances like “Her eyes snapped with anger”, seems uncertain whether flash is literal or metaphorical. If a literal meaning is intended, there is no need for the qualification; but if some metaphorical meaning is intended, and as if with describes the similitude, it is difficult to understand how we are to understand appear. Perhaps the lexicographer means “to flare suddenly, or to give that impression, as if with a flash of light.”

The second example bears a contradiction: if collaboration on this scale is to be found with any large organization, Nokia's problem can hardly be said to be unique.

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StoneyB deals with of the first example very neatly. I would reiterate his point that, interpreted literally, "To appear to flash" says pretty much everything that "to appear to flash as if with light" says.

However, beyond merely offering that example, user37612 notes that it is a definition, presumably from a dictionary, and I have noticed that dictionaries often use "as with" as a space-saving compression of the phrase "as, for example, with." Indeed, Merriam-Webster's goes a step further, and uses "as" by itself as a short form for "as, for example," as in this definition of the verb leach: "to subject to the action of percolating liquid (as water) in order to separate the soluble components." I suspect that the relevant dictionary's desire to avoid spelling out "for example" explains the wording of the first example.

The second example, meanwhile, looks to me like an example of like-shyness: Perhaps as a result of unpleasant experiences with English teachers during their impressionable youth, many writers become afraid to use like in situations where even grammar purists would have no objection to it. Chief among those instances are sentences where the meaning in question is "similarly to." To evade the feared ignominy of misusing like, like-shy authors often resort to substituting "as with" for it.

If you replace "as with" with like in the second example, you can see more clearly a second problem in the wording (augmenting the problem of widely shared uniqueness that StoneyB pointed out): Nokia isn't merely like a large organization; it is a large organization. So the wording of the opening part of the sentence really ought to be "Like any other large organisation..." (I'm also not sold on the idea that organizations "collaborate" with their own employees, as opposed to treating or managing them in a certain way; but this is far afield from the question of how "as with" functions in the two examples.)

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It occurs to me that dictionary use of "as with" makes just as much sense as a compression of the phrase "such as with" as of "as, for example, with." –  Sven Yargs Feb 18 '13 at 4:02
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