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Some days the halls were fused with a caustic scent, as of cleanser applied too liberally.

In the above sentence, I don't know how to parse this "as of". I know it is used like "like" in this sentence, structured in this manner; scent of (or that is of) cleanser. But I just cannot figure out a legitimate way of filling the gap between "as" and "of". I tried a few, including:

...caustic scent, as it is of cleanser applied too liberally.

...caustic scent, as caustic scent of cleanser applied too liberally.

But these don't seem to work quite well, because "as" here should have been used as conjunction, serving the purpose of "indicating by comparison the way that something happens or is done", like this example:

"Dress as you would if you were having guests"

For a conjunction to be used, a clause has to be used after a conjunction, or at least in the case of "as". But after "as" in the sentence above, there is no verb or any modal verb noting the verb phrase deletion, highly suggesting that "of cleanser applied too liberally" is not a reduced clause, but only a noun.

So, how should I parse it? What is the word that should be in the gap between "as" and "of"? Is it even used as a conjunction?

  • 1
    'as though it were [of]' – Edwin Ashworth Jul 17 '16 at 16:22
  • 2
    If anything, parse it as "as that of". – GoldenGremlin Jul 17 '16 at 16:23
  • @Silenus Because this "as" is a conjunction, and according to strict authorities, like is not used as a conjunction. – whitedevil Jul 17 '16 at 16:24
  • @EdwinAshworth That sounds very reasonable! Even though I cannot guess the reason that "though" is entirely omitted. – whitedevil Jul 17 '16 at 16:26
  • I think you can view it as elliptical for "as that of", where "that" is anaphoric on "caustic scent" and "as" is a preposition (meaning something like the ODO defintion "Used to refer to the function or character that someone or something has") – GoldenGremlin Jul 17 '16 at 16:34
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This is an interesting question. It is difficult because "as" has a multitude of different and subtle senses and can occur as many different parts of speech. I will try to develop the view I gave in the comments above.

Consider your sentence:

Some days the halls were fused with a caustic scent, as of cleanser applied too liberally.

I think that you can view "as of" as elliptical for "as that of", where "that" is anaphoric on "caustic scent."

The non elided version would read:

Some days the halls were fused with a caustic scent, as that of cleanser applied too liberally.

If we resolve the anaphora, it reads:

Some days the halls were fused with a caustic scent, as the caustic scent of cleanser applied too liberally.

Here, "as" is not functioning as a conjunction, but rather as a preposition, exactly analogously to like.

To corroborate this analysis, just consider that we can substitute "like" in your sentence and preserve the meaning

Some days the halls were fused with a caustic scent, like of cleanser applied too liberally.

This sentence is elliptical in the same way the first is:

Some days the halls were fused with a caustic scent, like that of cleanser applied too liberally.

Both of these sentences sounds fine to me, but that judgment might be controversial.

Notice that we can also simplify the original sentence by dropping potentially distracting material like "applied too liberally." We get:

The halls were fused with a caustic scent, as of cleanser.

I think that "as [that] of cleanser" is a prepositional phrase adjunct occurring with the noun phrase "a caustic scent". The reason it is set off by a comma is to indicate its peripheral status. The same effect can be achieved with parentheses, as in:

The halls were fused with a caustic scent (as of cleanser).

Here, I see no other option for "as" except as a preposition occurring with an elided "that." If this construction is suitably analogous to your original one, I see no other option than treating "as" as a preposition there.

  • I truly appreciate your effort! However, what do you think of Edwin Ashworth's analysis 'as though it were [of]'? – whitedevil Jul 17 '16 at 17:11
  • It's a good alternate analysis. And one can insert "though" in your sentence while persevering meaning, as in: "The halls were fused with a caustic scent, as though of cleanser." But one should independently motivate the idea that "it were" can be elided. Maybe this is obvious, but maybe not. My analysis involves an elided anaphoric "that", a phenomenon that can be independently motivated by comparing constructions like "We named him that after his father" and "We named him after his father." Still, it's very speculative. I just thought I'd give an answer a shot. I want to see others. – GoldenGremlin Jul 17 '16 at 17:21

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