1

Say I want to write something to say:

John looked over his shoulder as he opened the door slowly.

However, for stylistic reasons I don't really want to use as in that sentence. There must be other ways of expressing simultaneity. What words or phrasing could replace the as in that sentence?

The Help Center here says

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”

... so please explain your choice and why your suggestion works [e.g. its grammar] as that introduces some objective measure of validity.

  • 6
    While can serve; the sentence is better with as though. – Kris Jul 24 '14 at 5:32
  • Why do you want to replace it? – curiousdannii Jul 24 '14 at 5:41
  • One possible reason to replace it is that as can mean because (although that doesn't really apply to opened and would require had opened). That temporal distinction could make for a question in its own right. – Andrew Leach Jul 24 '14 at 6:40
  • Hmm. I should have read the question more carefully. I hope the question is now more on-topic, although I'm prepared to find that others may disagree. – Andrew Leach Jul 24 '14 at 9:21
3

The adverb makes 'he opened the door slowly' non-punctive. It is not clear whether 'looked' is describing a punctive act or a durative one.

If the former (the apparent tautology is idiomatic):

John opened the door slowly, taking a swift glance over his shoulder as he did so. /

John took a swift glance over his shoulder as he slowly opened the door.

If the latter:

John opened the door slowly, all the while looking back over his shoulder.

  • You seem to be using punctive to mean at a point in time, vs its OED1 def., “Making straight for a point”. Note, onelook and wordnet don't find punctive in the several dozen dictionaries they search. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Jul 24 '14 at 15:25
  • After say Paczynski (file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/DAD/My%20Documents/Downloads/abstractbook2010-final.pdf) [p 23]: Thus it has been proposed that it is the placement of a punctive verb (such as pounce or squeak) within a durative context (such as for several minutes or throughout the afternoon) that results in the multiple-event interpretation, a phenomenon called aspectual coercion.... Within each vignette, the second sentence contained an introductory context that was punctive (after several minutes), durative (for several minutes) or explicitly iterative (several times). – Edwin Ashworth Jul 24 '14 at 19:04
  • M Lynne Murphy, in 'Lexical Meaning' actually defines the word for events rather than the associated verbs: "Events that happen in a moment are said to be punctual (or ... punctive), while longer ones ... are durative" – Edwin Ashworth Jul 24 '14 at 19:18
1

Most linking conjunctions you could use here will sound a little clunky. I'm guessing what you're aiming to show is the simultaneity of the two actions. A participle clause would achieve this effect without the need for an extra conjunction. You could turn either clause into a participle clause, so either of the following would do:

  • Looking over his shoulder, John slowly opened the door.
  • Slowly opening the door, John looked over his shoulder.
1

Opening the door slowly, John looked over his shoulder.

  • This example is correct, but does not really answer the question, as Spectre is looking for an alternative to "as". – Ronan Jul 24 '14 at 9:52
  • ... Which question? 'What words ... could replace the as ...?' or the implied one: 'However, for stylistic reasons I don't really want to use as in that sentence. There must be other ways of expressing simultaneity.... please explain your choice and why your suggestion works [eg its grammar]' (which obviously envisions a possible rewrite as OP is happy with the grammar of the original). The fundamental question being asked here is about ways of expressing simultaneity. This is a perfectly valid suggestion; it is not a full answer as it makes no attempt to explain the semantics / syntax. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 24 '14 at 10:19
  • There isn't any "alternative to as". What a silly idea. Words are not replaceable beads on a string. They are all unique, with unique history, unique affordances, prohibitions, and requirements, a unique set of idioms and constructions, and a unique blend of meanings and uses. If, for stylistic reasons, one doesn't wish to use it, one has other options; otherwise one would not have any stylistic reasons. – John Lawler Jul 24 '14 at 16:50
1

John looked over his shoulder and slowly opened the door.

And is simplest of all when combining things, even actions.

1

Replacement of terms doesn't always have to be the answer.

For example, you could omit "as" and rearrange the sentence as follows:

"Opening the door slowly, John looked over his shoulder."

If you want it left in its original order, you can replace "as he" with "and," as seen below:

"John looked over his shoulder and opened the door slowly."

0

Possible alternative constructions:

"John looked over his shoulder, at the same time slowly opening the door."

"While slowly opening the door, John looked over his shoulder."

"John looked over his shoulder, slowly opening the door as he did so."

"John looked over his shoulder, slowly opening the door in the meantime."

"John looked over his shoulder, all the while slowly opening the door."

-2

''While'' is a better replacement as both of the words explains doing something simultaneously.

  • 4
    While is a possible replacement. Not a better replacement. In fact, it feels distinctly inferior to as in this case. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 24 '14 at 6:50

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