23

Before branding this question a duplicate, please note that I have already noticed some questions here pertaining to the use of 'as well as'. I have also noticed that none of the answers to them are helpful to clear out my confusion.

I have come across this sentence in Michael Swan's Practical English Usage: "When we put a verb after as well as, we most often use the -ing form".

verbs after as well as

When we put a verb after as well as, we most often use the -ing form

Smoking is dangerous, as well as making you smell bad [NOT ...as well as it makes you smell bad) As well as breaking his leg, he hurt his arm. (NOT ...as well as he broke his leg…) After an infinitive in the main clause, an infinitive without to is possible. I have to feed the animals, as well as look after the children.
Note the difference between:

She sings as well as playing the piano.
(= She not only plays, but also sings.)
She sings as well as she plays the piano.
(=Her singing is as good as her playing.)

Also, The Free Dictionary says, "You can use as well as in a similar way to link clauses. However, the second clause must be a clause beginning with an -ing form". See their example sentence and warning: enter image description here

But this example sentence form the Merriam-Webster Dictionary puts me in confusion: enter image description here

Question: What is the correct usage when we have to use a verb after as well as?

EDIT

Afterthought:

After reading the answers, my confusion has been worsened. Is the M-W dictionary's example sentence really wrong? I've come across the following sentences in another grammar book.

Justice, as well as mercy, allows it.

Sanskrit, as well as Arabic, was taught there.

The book says that as well as is parenthetical and that is why the verbs are singular here.

In other words, it's not a conjunction copulative or additive in function; it's simply appositive.

See what Fowler says in his A Dictionary of Modern English Usage:

"It is time for someone to come to the rescue of the phrase as well as, which is being cruelly treated. Grammatically, the point is that as well as is a conjunction and not a preposition. Or, to put it in a less abstract way, its strict meaning is not besides, but and not only.

  • Its authoritative reports would help to build up an informed public opinion as well as guiding the Government.

    Read 'guide', it depends on would; or else substitute besides.

  • His death leaves a gap as well as creating a by-election in Ross and Cromarty.

    Read creates; it is parallel to leaves; or else substitute besides.

It seems to me as if Fowler asks us not to use an -ing form of verbs after as well as, for as well as is never a preposition. Also, if we want to use the -ing form, we have to use the preposition besides.

My doubt again, especially after reading the appositive use of as well as is : Although we may agree with Fowler's views, can't we use an -ing verb form (a gerund) after a conjunction?

  • 9
    There are two meanings to 'as well as'. She dances as well as she sings is a comparison of ability. As well as dancing, she sings is an addition of ability. – Nigel J Sep 15 '18 at 17:52
  • 3
    Good question +1. It does seem contradictory. I wonder if the free dictionary would accept 'we manage the budget as well as order the equipment', the equivalent of the Meriam Webster example. For no good reason that I can think of, the latter sentence sounds a bit better in my ears than 'she manages the budget as well as orders the equipment'. – S Conroy Sep 15 '18 at 18:07
  • 4
    In technical editing—where brevity and clarity are paramount—"as well as" is often changed to "and" (where appropriate) or "in addition to" to avoid the ambiguity noted by @NigelJ. It's more succinct, for example, to simply say "Smoking is dangerous and makes you smell bad." and "We offer electronic toys and rent out video games." – Chemomechanics Sep 15 '18 at 18:10
  • 2
    @SConroy, Sorry, it's my mistake and I'm going to edit it. I meant *'None of them are helpful' in my case. Thanks! – mahmud koya Sep 15 '18 at 18:13
  • 3
    The more I think about this the more I get confused. Here are a couple of other examples to consider. 1. "She has to vacuum the floor as well as mop it." 2."I must go to the doctor's, as well as pay my fines." 1 definitely seems fine. 2 I have a feeling is fine and is better than the "paying" alternative. @SConroy A pattern I've noticed is that these constructions sound odd with a third person singular subject. If you look at all the sentences given as incorrect examples in this thread, they are of this kind, "She manages the budget", "Running is healthy", "He broke the window", "She draws" – Zebrafish Sep 19 '18 at 13:42
12
+25

No, the Merriam-Webster example is not wrong.

As far as Fowler, because he is a prescriptivist, I'm not sure it makes sense to call him 'wrong'. So he's advocating a ban on gerund-participials after as well as. Well, all I can say is that such a blanket ban would go against very solidly established usage, and that there is nothing intrinsically ungrammatical about the usage he wishes to ban. Style, however, is a different matter. I do agree that his gerund-free rewritings of the sample sentences do sound better than the originals, to my ear at least. But the originals are all perfectly acceptable English.

The three functions of as well as

The point is that as well as has three uses, of which one is not relevant to your question, while the other two are.

The one that's not relevant to you is its literal meaning, which is used in comparisons of equality (He played as well as he'd ever done).

Now onto the two relevant meanings, both of which we may call idiomatic.

As well as functioning as a coordinator

In its first relevant meaning, as well as is reanalyzed as a coordinator that roughly means and. One slight difference when using as well as this way is that, unlike with and, the second coordinate gets backgrounded. This as well as has most of the properties typical of coordinators. Just as with and, or, etc., the coordinates joined by as well as normally have to be syntactically alike (i.e if one is a noun phrase (NP), the other one must be as well; if one is a verb phrase (VP), the other one must be as well; etc.). And just like with and, if it's a coordination of NPs which serves as the subject of a clause, then the corresponding verb has to have plural agreement. An example of this is the were here: [Abstraction] [as well as impressionism] were Russian inventions.

This 'coordinator' meaning is the one used in the Merriam-Webster example. That example is a coordination of VPs. Note that as well as could be replaced by and without losing grammaticality, and with a minimal change in meaning, if any:

[We offer electronic toys] as well as [rent out video games].
[We offer electronic toys] and [rent out video games].

As well as functioning to introduce a subordinate element

In its second relevant meaning, as well as functions differently. In this case, it introduces an element that is subordinate rather than coordinate. Therefore the elements that this as well as joins need not be syntactically alike, which is one of the reasons why we wouldn't be able to substitute and for as well as in such cases. This is the use of as well as seen in examples such as Smoking is dangerous, as well as making you smell bad.

Analysis from CGEL

For more details, here is CGEL (pp. 1316-1317):

The literal use of as well as is seen in comparisons of equality like He played as well as he'd ever done. Here well is an adverb heading the underlined [boldfaced] phrase, an adjunct of manner. There is also an idiomatic use meaning approximately "and, in addition to", illustrated in:

[70]  i  a.  She [means what she says] [as well as says what she means].
             b.  [Abstraction] [as well as impressionism] were Russian inventions.
             c.  [Both increasing ewe liveweight,] [as well as liveweightat mating,] influence
                    ovulation rate and lambing performance.

         ii  a.  [Beauty] [as well as love] is redemptive.
             b.  He will have, [as well as the TV stations,] [a book publishing empire].
             c.  I met her father, [whom] she had invited along [as well as her college friends].
             d.  She [has experience in management], [as well as being an actor of talent].

In [i] as well as behaves like the coordinator and. In [ia] it links two finite VPs (verb phrases), a property characteristic of coordinators: cf. property (c) of §2.1. Note in this connection that while She plays the piano as well as the violin (with paired NPs) is ambiguous between a literal meaning ("as proficiently") and the idiomatic one ("and"), She plays the piano as well as sings lieder (with paired finite VPs) has only the idiomatic meaning. In [ib] the form were indicates that the subject NP is plural, just like abstraction and impressionism. And in [ic] we have not only such plural agreement, but also a correlative pairing of both with as well as instead of the usual and.

In [70ii], by contrast, as well as behaves markedly differently from a coordinator. In [iia] the 3rd person singular verb-form is indicates that this time the subject is singular: is agrees with beauty, so that as well as love is treated syntactically as an adjunct, not a coordinate. In [iib] as well as the TV stations precedes a book publishing empire, making it clearly an adjunct. And could not appear in the position as well as has here: cf. property (d) of §2.1. In [iic] relativisation has applied to just one of the bracketed constituents, contrary to coordinator property (e). And in [iid] the bracketed constituents are syntactically unlike, the first being a finite VP, the second a gerund-participial, contrary to coordinator property (b). Note that order reversal is possible in [iid] (As well as being an actor of talent, she has experience of management), but not in [ia] (*As well as says what she means, she means what she says).

We must conclude that idiomatic as well as can be construed syntactically in two ways, introducing an element that is either coordinate (as in [70i]) or subordinate (as in [ii]). In the former case, we take it to have been reanalysed as a compound coordinator. In the latter case there has been no such syntactic reanalysis, and here as well as does not form a constituent. This is evident from the fact that as well can occur on its own: compare Beauty is redemptive and love is as well In [iia], then, the second as is a preposition taking the NP love as its complement, and the whole PP as love is an indirect complement in the AdvP as well as love. Similarly for the other examples in [ii].

As a coordinator, as well as is restricted to subclausal coordination: She plays the piano as well as she sings lieder, for example, has only the literal comparative interpretation. Even as a coordination, 'X as well as Y' differs from 'X and Y' in that the second term is backgrounded: Y often expresses information that is discourse-old, i.e. familiar from the prior discourse.

  • +1 for everyone being somewhat right as well as for the nice CGEL explanation. – S Conroy Sep 25 '18 at 2:16
  • 1
    Is CGEL saying that in 70iid the gerund-participial is correct, i.e. She [has experience in management], [as well as being an actor of talent]? It would certainly sound strange to say She [has experience in management], [as well as is an actor of talent]. Yet isn't the latter construction identical to [We offer electronic toys] as well as [rent out video games]? – Chappo Sep 25 '18 at 2:36
  • 1
    Interestingly related: Is there a grammatical mistake in this sentence:- The owner as well as his servants is honest, in which you add "I should say that I have some misgivings about CGEL's argument for the claim that as well as is not a constituent in [70] ii". – Chappo Sep 25 '18 at 3:15
3

If this is a rule, it is one of fairly recent vintage. Looking in Google books, I find in Exposition of the Grammatical Structure of the English Language, by John Mulligan (New York, 1857) the quote:

But when we say This musician sings as well as plays, the meaning is altogether different,

where here the book is contrasting this with the sentence This musician sings as well as he plays.

I don't know whether the usage has changed and we now prefer the gerund after as well as, whether more recent grammarians are suffering an attack of unfounded prescriptionism, or whether this detail of grammar varies between dialects (my guess). However, if this usage was acceptable to some grammarians in the 19th century, it should not be surprising that some people still use it in the 21st.

I would be very reluctant to call it outright ungrammatical.

Let me comment that, if the as well as clause comes first, you must use the gerund. The first of the following sentences is ungrammatical:

*As well as plays, the musician sings.
As well as playing, the musician sings.

If the prohibition against finite verbs after as well as is unfounded prescriptionism, this is probably where it comes from. Some grammarian decided that if a clause is ungrammatical before the verb, it should also be ungrammatical after it. This isn't the way English works—for example, whether you use except or except for can depend on the placement of the clause.

  • Good find. The quoted example seems right to me in the 21st century, yet the MW example sounds wrong to me. I wonder whether the -ing "practice" (in lieu of calling it a rule) has since evolved as a way of eliminating ambiguity when the second verb has an object? E.g. does "this musician sings as well as plays Bach" mean they both sing Bach and play Bach, or they play Bach and they also sing? A comma after "sing" directs us to the second meaning, but in spoken English commas can be harder to detect. Just a thought. Fascinating question! – Chappo Sep 20 '18 at 10:15
  • How would Mulligan have judged "the musician sang as well as played"? – AmI Sep 24 '18 at 13:22
  • @Ami: since that's just putting his sentence into the past, I assume he would have thought it was perfectly fine. But I can't really tell. – Peter Shor Sep 24 '18 at 13:39
  • 1
    I'm trying to get a feel for whether the phrase can take any tense, or needs something close to an infinite. – AmI Sep 24 '18 at 13:59
  • I think the two tenses have to be the same. She sings beautifully, as well as composed three synphonies sounds wrong ... you would need to use as well as having composed. And finite tenses sound best if the clauses are only a few words long ... for long clauses, these constructions sound much better if you use the gerund. – Peter Shor Sep 24 '18 at 14:11
2

I am grateful to all, especially, those who have posted their answers, expressed their views through comments and edited my question to make it more attractive and catchy. Still I am nowhere near a final conclusion as to what verb form should I use after as well as.

However, after reading the following excerpt from “A Grammar of Contemporary English by Quirk et al”, I assume I had better take a moderate stand – neither to be very strict in using only the –ing form as advised by Michael Swan or The Free Dictionary nor to consider as well as always a conjunction and use a finite verb after it as stated by Fowler. As per the following excerpt, as well as can function in sentences as a conjunction or preposition both without any change of meaning. Then, how can we blame the Merriam-Webster Dictionary for their example sentence!

“There are several quasi-coordinators which behave sometimes like coordinators and at other times (without any change of meaning) like subordinators or prepositions. The most prominent of them are clearly related to comparative forms: as well as, as much as, rather than, more than. In the following examples, they do not introduce noun phrases or clauses, and therefore resemble coordinators:

He publishes as well as prints his own books.

In other sentences, however, they clearly have a prepositional or subordinating role:

As well as printing the books, he publishes them.”

  • 1
    To me, in the phrase "as well as", the first 'as' feels like a coordinator, and the second feels like a preposition, but I don't see any subordination happening since it never introduces a clause (there's no subject). – AmI Sep 24 '18 at 13:53
1

The question is ambiguous, it sounds as if you are actually looking for the tense of the verb rather than the verb itself. It would help us if you stated the specific use case. In the generic sense, the tense breaks down according to choice of usage, as noted by @Nigel J:

1) "As well as" used as a conjunction: Present continuous

2) "As well as" used for comparison: Present perfect

  • 2
    Where is the ambiguity? In the light of the cited three examples, my question is whether we should use an -ing form or a finite verb after as well as. – mahmud koya Sep 15 '18 at 19:55
  • 2
    Present continuous (be + V+ ing) : "She is dancing as well as singing" is this what you mean? If so, would "She danced as well as sung." be incorrect? What has the present perfect got to do with the question? – Mari-Lou A Sep 22 '18 at 7:04
  • Wouldn't a coordinating conjunction be followed by any tense (although a repetition of the preceding tense would be preferred)? Wouldn't a comparison (of verbs) do the same? Does an infinite form (present or participle) lead us to assume a repetition of tense? – AmI Sep 24 '18 at 13:35
-1

TL;DR: You ask "What is the correct usage when we have to use a verb after as well as?" The simple answer, as your cited references already suggest, is to use the "-ing" form of the verb. I'll give further evidence to support this, but first I'll show that Merriam-Webster has probably got it wrong.


1. The MW example is incorrect

It's instructive to look at Merriam-Webster Dictionary's example sentence in greater detail:

as well as (conjunction)
Definition of As Well As (Entry 1 of 2)
: and in addition : AND
- brave as well as loyal

as well as (preposition)
Definition of As Well As (Entry 2 of 2)
: in addition to : BESIDES
- the coach, as well as the team, is ready

Examples of As Well As in a Sentence
(Preposition)
- we offer electronic toys as well as rent out video games

Clearly the expression "as well as" is not a preposition in this sentence; it functions as a coordinating conjunction. MW is generally a reliable dictionary, but this would seem to be a rather glaring error. As a conjunction, "as well as" should take the "-ing" form of the verb in the second clause, so MW has simply compounded their error by using an incorrect example for their incorrect part of speech.

2. The correct usage

Grammarist's explanation of conjunctions puts "as well as" in two categories: (a) coordinating conjunctions, and (b) copulative conjunctions (also known as additive conjunctions), which are a specific type of coordinating conjunction.

Grammar hounds may find additional enlightenment in McCawley's The Syntactic Phenomena of English, a relevant extract of which is available online. McCawley notes that

"inflections that are imposed on the whole putative coordinate structure are realized on just the first conjunct, with the second conjunct taking an -ing form irrespective of what inflection the first conjunct has."

Finally, a simpler prescription is provided here, in which it's stated:

VERBS AFTER AS WELL AS COME IN –ING FORM
When we put a verb after as well as, we use the -ing form of the verb. (This might sound really strange to a non-native speaker, but the grammar books agree on this.)

Running is healthy as well as making you feel good.
He broke the window, as well as destroying the wall.
She draws as well as designing clothes.

Interestingly, the above source provides an additional perspective on the use of "as well as" as a conjunction that I hadn't previously considered, though it makes intuitive sense:

As well as cannot be used to mean and. The expression X as well as Y means not only Y but also X (note that X and Y are reversed). While and simply conjoins two (or more) expressions, as well as places unequal emphasis on the two expressions — the expression preceding as well as carries a stronger emphasis than the expression following it.

  • 6
    Just a comment. The more I learn about this sort of stuff the more I think writers unconsciously selectively pick evidence supporting their point. Eg., "VERBS AFTER AS WELL AS COME IN –ING FORM", you'll notice that all three examples have a third person singular subject, and so the sentences sound unnatural and we then accept that the rule is sound and doing otherwise is clearly wrong. But if we were to take "I draw as well as design clothes", it no longer sounds as unnatural. A fair examination of the rule should not be so selective in its examples given, it seems tendentious, not neutral. – Zebrafish Sep 19 '18 at 8:18
  • 2
    The Free Dictionary "Be Careful" note does the same thing, the subject is the third person singular, "Don't say, for example, 'She manages the budget as well as she orders the equipment'." If we try it with "I manage the budget as well as order the equipment" it doesn't sound as unnatural, but I don't know. I like you answer, I'm just not sure if this is an absolute universal rule or whether it's more nuanced than these explanations. Edit: also, very interesting about the preposition/conjunction discrepancy as given at Merriam-Webster. – Zebrafish Sep 19 '18 at 8:22
  • 2
    To be honest with you, both of them aren't exactly clear to me in meaning. But if the first one is acceptable (I'm not saying it is or isn't), then the rule is wrong as a universal prescription (which it seems to be) without further qualification. "I draw as well as designing clothes" actually sounds rather odd to me. Though "As well as designing clothes, I draw" sounds OK. This might be a personal quirk of mine. Maybe it's also a confusing example sentence, maybe the budget one is better to analyse. – Zebrafish Sep 19 '18 at 12:23
  • 3
    I'm downvoting you, not because your answer is wrong (I don't know myself), but because your logic is just completely incorrect here. The fact that Merriam-Webster got the part of speech wrong has no bearing on whether they got the verb tense wrong. And further, I don't trust one of your sources: Running is healthy as well as making you feel good is terrible grammar (although changing the tense of making wouldn't improve it). – Peter Shor Sep 19 '18 at 13:52
  • 2
    I'm pretty sure Peter Shor's comment about terrible grammar isn't about using "good" as an adverb, but the use of "making" after "as well as". I can't say it's bad grammar, because I can only subjectively say it sounds strange to my ear. Since none of us seem to be able to put a finger on what is the exact rule being violated here, we're at an impasse in objectively saying it's poor English. In my opinion, the M-W example sentence about renting out video games sounds better than the running example. But can't explain why, and am quite confused about this whole topic. – Zebrafish Sep 20 '18 at 9:02
-5

That aside, there is no contradiction and the Question is in no way ambiguous. “… we offer toys as well as rent out video games…” is simply wrong, which shows why and how your sources are right.

Precisely as specified, “… we offer toys as well as renting out video games…” is the correct form.

Please remember always that posting pictures instead of text is far from helpful.

  • 2
    "It both helps as well as hurts its members" is wrong according to this rule? – Zebrafish Sep 19 '18 at 6:23
  • 3
    @Zebrafish Hmm, you've got me there! I've just posted an answer about using the -ing construction, but your example sounds right too. I think the use of "both" makes "as well as" function as a copulative (or additive) conjunction, but I'm not expert enough in grammar to do other than speculate whether this particular subset is exempted from the -ing rule. – Chappo Sep 19 '18 at 7:32
  • 1
    @Zebrafish Yes, it's wrong. The element after as well as should augment, not mitigate. You can't say help as well as hurt. In fact, there isn't anything that completes "helps as well as ____". Ngrams has 0 hits for this string. – Phil Sweet Sep 22 '18 at 22:30
  • @PhilSweet Not sure what you mean by "augment, not mitigate". As dictionaries point out, it functions in a similar way to also, don't know what that has to with augmenting or mitigating, whatever that means. I'm not surprised Ngrams doesn't turn up results for that particular string. It's a very specific string I made up. Ngrams doesn't give results for "he fed his hamster" and "he enjoys climbing" either. Very hardly a test of whether something is grammatical or acceptable. Also, "as well as hurts" does turn up in Ngrams, as do many present tense third person singular words after "as well as" – Zebrafish Sep 23 '18 at 5:35
  • 1
    Ngrams will find past tense too ("as well as helped", "as well as slept"). The graphs of all tenses vary, but many of the finite ones peak in the late 1800s. – AmI Sep 24 '18 at 14:17

Your Answer

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

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.