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My work ethic together with belief in my ability has led to progress.

Can linking phrases with together with/combined with/along with/as-well-as be seen as using conjunction-reduction so that the first "my" applies to "belief" too?

If ethic and belief were connected by "and" then certainly it would apply but the question is whether it does for the above linkers without other modifications to the sentence.

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    I think it can, but it seems to invite ambiguity out of context -- you might be speaking in front of the boss and referring to his often-expressed belief in your ability, for instance. There's a Gricean question as to why you would use together with instead of and, and that can lead to an ambiguity search. Generally speaking, if you use fancier phrases, there is a reason. I'd repeat my, personally; at least in that sentence. If I'm gonna brag, I have no reason to appear shy, after all. Jan 16, 2015 at 16:57
  • In the absence of any explicit determiner such as definite article "the" or "my" on belief, an educated reader would have to assume that the first my must apply to belief since belief does need a determiner in the form of a "the", "my", or <boss's name>? In the above it doesn't have any so the ambiguity search would trace it to the conjunction reduction rule and use the first my. Assume that only the above linkers apply because using "and" would lead to other changes (has vs have for example).
    – Joe Black
    Jan 16, 2015 at 17:22
  • No. The scope of 'my' does not extend to 'belief in my ability' (though there may well be the implication of an omitted 'my' in say 'Self-belief has aided my progress'). Jan 16, 2015 at 22:05

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I don't think so. I think of the question as really being whether "together with" can connect two nouns to make another noun, as "and" can. Or, less clearly, "with" can. So the structure of the subject in your example, if "together with" can truly function like "and", would be: [NP my [N [N work ethic] together-with [N belief in my ability] ] ] , where I label brackets by suffixing them with a category. That is, "together with" would be a conjunction which connects the nouns "work ethic" and "belief in my ability" to make the noun "work ethic and belief in my ability", the whole of which is in construction with the determiner "my" to make the NP subject.

But this parsing does not work for me, personally. It would be okay using just "with" instead of "together with".

(This concerns the original example: "My work ethic together with belief in my ability has led to progress.")

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Fascinating question. I cannot analyze it as well as a pedantic grammarian, but I believe I can illuminate the issue.

Because I am unsure that "together with" is technically a conjunction, I will purposely avoid using that word. Instead I will say that the phrase "connects" some parts of the sentence together.

I think the question is: what does "together with" connect?

My work ethic together with belief in my ability has led to progress.

To rephrase your question, you astutely ponder if "together with" connects "My" and "belief in my ability." If the answer is yes, then the sentence is "correct". I typically dislike the idea of "correct" grammar in English, so I prefer to aim for other things such as reducing ambiguity or distracting the reader with awkward phrasing.

I agree with you that if "and" were substituted for "together with" then your sentence would flow nicely and your meaning would be clear: you have two qualities that (you imply worked together and) caused progress.

"Together with" is not one of the FANBOYS, so the sentence does not flow as well if you has used "and." This might be strictly a convention issue: we readers are not accustomed to the sentence construction you used, so the novelty arrested our attention.

However, it might be that "together with" is connecting two things you did not intended to connect. My intuition tells me that "together with" is connecting "work ethic" (without the word "My") to "belief in my ability." If that is what is happening, either by the "rules" of grammar or by the writing conventions of our times, then the sentence is awkward and potentially confusing.

Another perspective: what if we added commas to offset the dependent clause?

My work ethic, together with belief in my ability, has led to progress.

To my eye, the above sentence is awkward because it is missing "my".

My work ethic, together with my belief in my ability, has led to progress.

What about the word, "and?"

My work ethic, and belief in my ability, has led to progress.

My work ethic, and my belief in my ability, has led to progress.

Again, I feel there is a qualitative difference between "and" and "together with", but I cannot use the pedantic terms to describe the differences, if there are in fact any technical differences between the two terms.

Nevertheless, convention is often stronger than "rules". Consider the dying use of the subjunctive "were" in favor of the more convenient "was," and the all but dead and buried "whom" in favor of "who." Therefore, if your goal is powerful, clear writing, then convention alone is enough of a reason to repeat the subject, "my", before "belief in my ability."

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  • could some linking phrases above be better than others regarding this issue such as -well-as better than "together with"?
    – Joe Black
    Jan 16, 2015 at 18:22
  • Oh, I forgot to mention the three other examples you provided: "combined with, along with, as-well-as." My intuition is that they performed similarly to "together with." My suspicion is that because those phrases do not belong to the FANBOYS clique that our eye expects to see "my" in the sentence. I wish I had the skill to analyze it with technical terms, but the best I can say is that from what I can see of modern convention, FANBOYS are the only connector words that get the benefit of the implied "my." Again, it is a fascinating puzzle, and I hope someone has a more sophisticated answer. Jan 16, 2015 at 18:29
  • Related.
    – tchrist
    Nov 24, 2022 at 20:41
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As I am a non native speaker I appologize for the indulgence of giving my 2 cents and I warn that my grammatical understanding might be tinted by german synthax. But I think that I am able to help, or atleast to point in the right direction. As it was already mentioned you would have to change "has led" to "have led" in your original quote if you would apply "and" instead of "together with". I believe this to be the main issue here. Together with is no "Linker", it is a preposition which normally introduces an adverbial phrase. As it is no conjunction (further down the explanation why and how exactly it differs from "and") the conjunction-reduction is neither applicable. Furtheremore I believe you would have to set a coma before and after "together with my belief in my ability". Let's take a step back. We were just saying that you would have to use "have led" if linking work ethic and belief in your ability with "and".

"My work ethic and belief in my ability have led to progress.

This is simply because "and" links 2 noun phrases together as the subject of your sentence. It is both, your work ethic AND your belief, which led to progress. But still it would be more conventional to say:

"my work ethic(,) together with (my) belief in my ability(,) has led to progress."

Now, why is that? Quite simple; "Together" is an adverb.

We did this together. How have we done this? together

Now, I am equal how not a big fan of "together with" as it seems awkward. but: "together with" is no linker. It is a preposition which normally introduces an adverbial phrase. It does not answer the question who is doing something but rather "how", "through what" or "wherewith/whomwith" something is done. As in "YOU ran a marathon together with 1000 other athlets". Using "together with" in your example would give your work ethics an outstanding role in coomparison to your self-belief, which would only have the sidekick. A perfect example to explain the difference of "together with" and "and" would be the following example:

"the woman passes a man(,) together with some kids"

"the woman passes a man and some kids"

Atleast i would udnerstand these two sentences differently; in the first sentence it is not the man who is together with "some kids" but the women who passes him (though i am unsure about the necessity of a comma). to clarify that the man is standing there with some kids you would have to introduce a new clause your adverbial phrase can refer to;

"the woman passes a man, who is together with some kids"

Your believe in your ability becomes a tool rather then an actor should you use "together with". Let's restructure your sentence to illustrate what this means:

"Together with my/the belief in my ability, my work ethic has led to progress"

or more clumsy:

"My work ethic has led to progress, together with my believe in my ability"

Let's have a look at some more examples to clarify what I mean

He is playing (together) with his friends

He and his friends are playing (alone in their homes)

He and his friends are playing together

I am quite sure the same logic applies to "along with" and "combined with". Nevertheless I can't vouch for anything and defenitely not for "as well".

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  • Welcome to English Language & Usage @Average. In English it is a convention to always capitalize I, the first person singular pronoun. Nice first answer :-)
    – user63230
    Jan 20, 2015 at 23:44
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In a comment, John Lawler answered:

I think it can, but it seems to invite ambiguity out of context -- you might be speaking in front of the boss and referring to his often-expressed belief in your ability, for instance. There's a Gricean question as to why you would use together with instead of and, and that can lead to an ambiguity search. Generally speaking, if you use fancier phrases, there is a reason. I'd repeat my, personally; at least in that sentence. If I'm gonna brag, I have no reason to appear shy, after all.

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