I'm just wondering what it is about this construction that makes it sound "incorrect" even though technically it is grammatically correct. Is it an awkwardness arising from a lack of cadence, or rhythm of the sentence? Is it a case of rhetorical anaphora* just evolving to be more popular rather than rhetorical repetition? I'm wondering if the popularization of this construct is more due to chance than to any underlying logic.

*anaphora (OED): Grammar ~ The use of a word referring to or replacing a word used earlier in a sentence, to avoid repetition, such as do in I like it and so do they.

Google Ngrams: " * as you are ADJECTIVE "

enter image description here

Google Ngrams: " * as you're ADJECTIVE " (no results)

  • 3
    That second you're will sound like your when spoken. People might expect a noun, and get an adjective tossed at them instead. – Wayfaring Stranger Jul 30 '16 at 19:55
  • @Wayfaring Stranger ~ that's a good point. I pronounce "your" more like "or" but I suppose other dialects pronounce "your and you're" similarily – user180089 Jul 30 '16 at 20:16
  • Weak forms (contractions) don't work in some contexts. Compare *'She's not as beautiful as you're.' – Edwin Ashworth Jul 30 '16 at 20:52
  • @EdwinAshworth That's different, though, because there's not complement there and the contraction ends up being all there is in the sentence—that's a grammatical/syntactical restriction. In the case given here, there really is no grammatical reason for it not to be correct. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 30 '16 at 22:38
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet The grammatical/syntactical restriction is essentially merely reflecting what people usually do. There's no grammar czar. You could argue that interchanging 'you are' and 'you're' in all situations is exactly as logical as interchanging 'Information Technology' and 'IT'. Many Brits use 'He's a nice new car now' quite happily, whereas others might deem it 'ungrammatical' (because they don't use it). I'm convinced that acceptable stress patterns in speech, rather than some weird quintessential natural grammar, drive acceptability. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 30 '16 at 22:54

It's because the "as ... as" construction has a deleted part which follows "are", words preceding deleted constituents must bear stress, and stressed words cannot be contracted.

"You're as (to an extent) wise, as you are (to that extent) well-traveled" has the elision of "to that extent". This causes "are" to be stressed and prevents it being contracted to "'re" by deletion of the stressed vowel.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    I'm surprised this got accepted as an answer so quick. It might be plausible, but I think you should do more to try to argue that there's elided material and not some other reason the contraction is blocked. – GoldenGremlin Jul 30 '16 at 21:02
  • @Silenus, "some other reason"? For instance? – Greg Lee Jul 30 '16 at 21:07
  • Well, I guess I was thinking "want to" can't be contracted into "wanna" in some constructions because of the presence of a covert syntactic element between "want" and "to." This differs from your explanation since yours has the elided material coming after the construction, which forces a stress, which in turn blocks contraction. But maybe on some syntactic analyses of the OP's construction there's a covert element between the "you" and the "are", rather than (possibly) covert elided material after it (not everybody treats ellipsis as involving covert elements). – GoldenGremlin Jul 30 '16 at 21:26
  • 2
    There is a more natural account which appeals to the Nuclear Stress rule of SPE to explain the stress which prevents the contraction. I started writing that out as an answer, but the constituent structure I was forced to assume got so complicated, I gave up on it. A source? Well, I don't know one off-hand. I recall hearing a talk about it back in the 80's by Derek Bickerton -- it was a hot topic back then due to talk about traces emanating from the MIT school. – Greg Lee Jul 30 '16 at 21:44
  • 1
    If this is truly the reason, then why does a contracted subject-verb work fine when the subjects are different? “He's as sad as I'm angry” is fine, but “He's as sad as *he’s angry” isn't (unless they're different he’s)… but surely if there's a trace of a deleted element in one, there ought to be one in both, oughtn’t there? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 30 '16 at 22:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy