Is it grammatically correct to use whereas + a present participle?

For example:

I am disinclined to recognize my weak mathematical skills, whereas willing to admit my lack of English skills.

This sounds silly to me, but the reason I am asking is because this same sentence seems to work when using while instead of whereas

Same example with while:

I am disinclined to recognize my weak mathematical skills, while willing to admit my lack of English skills.

Are they both grammatically correct? Are they both incorrect? Is one correct, but not the other?

If the example with while is grammatically incorrect, then is the following sentence also grammatically incorrect?

He does the dishes while singing.

  • whereas I am willing to
    – Lambie
    Nov 30, 2018 at 18:15
  • @Lambie I understand that would make the sentence sound better, but I think you may have misunderstand the crux of my question. I'm curious as to why whereas willing doesn't sound right, but while willing sounds fine. Nov 30, 2018 at 18:18
  • dictionary.cambridge.org/us/grammar/british-grammar/… [it also applies to all Englishes]
    – Lambie
    Nov 30, 2018 at 18:31
  • @Lambie I'm aware that whereas cannot be used to refer to time. In the second example sentence, I'm using while for contrast. In the third example sentence I'm using while in reference to time. None of the examples use whereas to refer to time. Nov 30, 2018 at 18:37
  • 1
    You're right. Your respondents aren't. Reason it's accceptable is that the unexpressed subject of the subordinate clause is the same as the subject of the main clause. However, it's clunky because of the semantics Feb 6, 2019 at 22:15

2 Answers 2


After doing some reading, I think it is grammatically correct to use whereas + a non-finite participle clause - it just may not be idiomatically correct (as suggested by @JasonBassford).

One of my sources for coming to this conclusion is the Cambridge dictionary. As explained in this article:

We often use non-finite clauses after some subordinating conjunctions like after, although, though and if.

  • No, it isn't grammatical at all, therefore, not idiomatic. ***whereas *** is a coordinating conjunction, not a subordinating conjunction, in your context. You can't have subordination with whereas. It contrasts two separate ideas i.e. independent clauses. I went today whereas you went yesterday. I went yesterday yet you went today. Going to the theater is fun whereas going to the dentist is not. That is not subordination. You can have "while willing to admit etc. because it is subordinate. "I am blah blah blah while willing to admit blug blug blug. That is subordination.
    – Lambie
    Nov 30, 2018 at 21:03
  • @Lambie You bring up an interesting point. However, every source I've seen, classifies whereas as a subordinating conjunction. web.cn.edu/kwheeler/grammar_subordinate.html web2.uvcs.uvic.ca/elc/studyzone/330/grammar/subcon.htm en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Nov 30, 2018 at 21:25
  • I saw that source. Whereas is a mistake in that list.
    – Lambie
    Nov 30, 2018 at 21:36
  • @Lambie It's a bit hard to tell, but there are 3 sources listed there Nov 30, 2018 at 21:46
  • It is not a non-finite participial clause. This is: whereas being willing to admit blah blah blah And you might want to believe me given the content of your sentence.
    – Lambie
    Dec 1, 2018 at 18:01

Here is the hard-and-fast grammatical pattern taken from the language itself as a living organism (maybe that is going too far) that shows that whereas is not a subordinating conjunction.

  • The boys played tennis and the girls played volleyball.

Everyone (I hope) will agree that the word and is a coordinating conjunction because the bits on either side of it, but not including it, can stand on their own. Can they stand on their own? Yes? Well, then the word and is what allows that.

You can substitute any of the so-called coordinating conjunctions there, remove them and you create two stand-alone utterances that are independent clauses. That is way to see how two independent clauses may be joined.

  • The boys played tennis but the girls played volleyball. [coordinator:but]

  • The boys played tennis. The girls played volleyball.

Now, if you use whereas instead of and, the same is true as regards the sentence above.

Now take the OP's sentence:

  • I am disinclined to recognize my weak mathematical skills, whereas willing to admit my lack of English skills.

If you want to introduce a whereas in that sentence, you need to do this:

  • I am not willing to recognize my weak mathematical skills whereas I am willing to admit my lack of English skills. OR

  • I am disinclined to recognize my weak mathematical skills whereas I am willing to admit my lack of English skills.

  • I am disinclined to recognize my weak mathematical skills whereas I am not disinclined to admit my lack of English skills. or: not so disinclined as regards my English skills.

Most grammars/grammarians do classify the word whereas as a subordinating conjunction where an independent clause is joined to an dependent one. However, all you need to do is see whereas used in texts,to see that the clauses used with it are not "subordinate to one another."

The word whereas in sentences contrasting "equal" utterances (subject, verb and predicate) plays a coordination role and not a subordination role. This can be seen by substituting any of the well-known coordinators such as but or yet where two clauses are coordinated, which are called coordinating words, and there is no "subordination". The kind of logic one finds with subordinating conjunctions is not the actual logic of the use of whereas (in its non-time meanings).

Here is a traditional explanation of a subordinating conjunctions, and it's pretty good too: subordinating conjunctions

  • I very much appreciate your answer. However, I disagree with how you arrived at classifying whereas as a coordinating conjunction. In regards to your example, if we instead substitute unless in place of and, we get the following sentence: the boys played tennis unless the girls played volleyball. Does this then make unless a coordinating conjunction? I would say no whereas your logic would say yes. I could be wrong, but my understanding of a subordinating conjunction is that it makes the clause dependent rather than the other way around. Dec 1, 2018 at 17:45
  • It seems that the crux of our disagreement is centered around whether a subordinating conjunction makes a clause dependent or whether an already dependent clause makes a conjunction subordinating. I honestly don't know which one is correct, but understanding is that a subordinating conjunction makes a clause dependent. I would be happy to be wrong though. Dec 1, 2018 at 17:48
  • No, the crux of it is that "whereas willing" is not grammatical at all. In the end, it does not matter what it is called. It matters whether it is accurate. Unless willing is a noun, which it isn't, it's wrong. Nouns: Being willing to understand something is one thing whereas being hardheaded is another. or Willingness, same thing. Willing it to be true is a pipe dream whereas willing it to be nice is not. There you go. All the grammar that's fit to use. Last thought: it surprises me that as an English speaker you can't "hear it".
    – Lambie
    Dec 1, 2018 at 17:59
  • Erm. What you been eating Lambie??!!# ;-) You can remove the subject and the verb BE in bith your CC examples. "I am disinclined to X, but/and willing to Y" Feb 6, 2019 at 22:24
  • @Araucaria I notice that people become abusive when they disagree. If you use the "whereas", you can't do it the way you suggest: "I am disinclined to X but ****whereas**** willing to Y" =not grammatical. Why is that contentious in any way??
    – Lambie
    Feb 7, 2019 at 14:34

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