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I have a serious problem with "As well As " ! is it a coordinating conjunction or subordinating conjunction? I have surfed the Net and look it up in many books and dictionary but unfortunately No straight answers ! some say coordinating some say subordinating, and some say it doesn't have the meaning of "And" at all, but some say it Does mean "And" !!!

I'll be glad if somebody can give me a complete answer Best Wishes Mohsen

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    You see the problem with relying on grammar authorities; they're not reliable or consistent. So what do you think? Is there any way to tell besides citing authorities? And if you did know the answer, what would it tell you? – John Lawler Oct 21 '15 at 17:52
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    @Jessica: just as we don't know what "grammar reference books" you're referring to. There are a lot of ways to analyze it, and even more to teach it. – John Lawler Oct 21 '15 at 18:34
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    @JohnLawler you are of course welcome to your opinion on that, but they are credible sources. Please, I'm not looking for arguments on here. Just trying to help a guy out with what the most taught rule on this is. – Jessica Oct 21 '15 at 18:49
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    I couldn't tell you what's the most taught rule. I can only tell you that it's unlikely the most-taught rule will be one that actually describes the grammar of English. – John Lawler Oct 21 '15 at 18:55
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    @Jessica The aim of ELU is to discuss and come to terms with accepted grammar etc, using where necessary quite esoteric terminology and analysis, not to dumb down to the point of inaccurate generality. There are other sites all too ready to do that. John Lawler is a retired Professor of Linguistics and has spent most of his working life examining different models of grammar. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 21 '15 at 18:57
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It's actually neither.

You can use the acronym FANBOYS to recall the seven coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).

A subordinating conjunction has to introduce a subordinate clause, which as well as cannot do. Common subordinating conjunctions are although, as, even though, etc. The reason as well as cannot introduce a subordinate clause is because what follows cannot have a subject and verb, which are required in any clause, whether subordinate or independent. For instance in the sentence

As well as swimming, Linda enjoyed cycling.

it may look like you have a subordinate clause because the introduction to the sentence is followed by a comma, but swimming is a gerund (a noun formed by a verb), and there is no subject before the comma, so as well as introduces a phrase, not a subordinate clause.

As well as is a conjunction, though, and is sometimes called a "phrasal connective." Other examples of phrasal connectives are in addition to and together with.

The conventional grammar rule is that as well as does not mean the same as and because it does not create a compound subject (a subject made of two or more nouns). For instance, see the two examples below and see that the verb changes from plural to singular with the change of conjunction:

The soloist and the rest of the string section were very talented.

The soloist as well as the rest of the string section was very talented.

Above, as well as introduces a parenthetical phrase that can actually be set off by commas:

The soloist, as well as the rest of the string section, was very talented.

For that reason, the verb is singular because the soloist is a simple subject and is singular. Hence, as well as does not serve the same purpose as and in terms of connecting clauses and subjects.

Note: It can, however, serve the same purpose as and in more simple cases. Flip my first example sentence around and you'll see this: "Linda enjoys cycling as well as swimming." This has no difference in meaning to "Linda enjoys cycling and swimming," though the second construction is clearer and more common.

  • There has already been an extensive analysis of the inadequacy of the FANBOYS classification on ELU. // 'As well as swimming, Linda often jogs' doesn't use a gerund. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 21 '15 at 18:38
  • @EdwinAshworth Regardless, can you give an example of "as well as" being used as a coordinating conjunction? – Jessica Oct 21 '15 at 18:39
  • Grammarist calls it a 'copulative' or 'additive' conjunction (it interestingly puts 'and' in both this and the 'coordinating' subclasses). // CGEL gives two sets of examples with 'as well as'. In one, '[it] behaves like the coordinator and '. In the other, it 'behaves markedly differently from a coordinator'. // By the way, I assume you mean 'parenthetical' instead of 'appositive', – Edwin Ashworth Oct 21 '15 at 19:12
  • "The soloist as well as her understudy were very talented." – Greg Lee Oct 21 '15 at 23:45
  • @EdwinAshworth Yes, parenthetical, my mistake. Edited. – Jessica Oct 21 '15 at 23:52
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"A and B" is a compound noun in which A and B enjoy equal status. "A as well as B" is a singular noun A, which could - in a parallel sentence - equally be replaced by B. The construct is therefore neither coordinating nor subordinating, but its usage is clear.

To elaborate my answer, consider how it reads when we introduce commas into an example. "A, as well as B, is a capital letter." In this case we have a noun phrase in apposition to "A" and the singular verb is needed to correspond to the basic structure "A is a capital letter".

  • If "A as well as B" is singular, why does it take plural verb agreement? "John as well as Mary *is/are leaving now." – Greg Lee Oct 21 '15 at 23:43
  • @GregLee Obviously, judging from this page, that's not something all sources agree on. I had no idea it was such a contentious issue. I've only ever been taught that "as well as" does not create a compound subject. – Jessica Oct 22 '15 at 0:08
  • @Jessica, I find invoking what you've "only ever been taught" to be quite odd. We shouldn't be discussing your prior education here, should we? – Greg Lee Oct 22 '15 at 0:26
  • @GregLee No, I didn't mean it like that. I'm just saying that it seems there is no single accepted answer here, and I didn't know that until this whole discussion came up. Sheesh. – Jessica Oct 22 '15 at 0:29
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I think "as well as" is actually a special case of the correlative conjunction "as ... as" being used as a coordinating conjunction. It may seem like a subordinating conjunction, because it is often used to link two things that are different in emphasis. But that is a nuance of usage.

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When 'as well as' is used, it is found that the speaker wants to add another subject in the sentence. Example, He as well as his friends is on leave. In the above sentence, there are no coordinating or subordinating clauses joined by 'as well as'. So the sentence is a simple one. The speaker could have used 'and' in place of 'as well as', but in his mind, the subject 'he' was prominent. Similarly, both....and are used in simple sentences only.

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