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I was checking out the usage of the word "equal" as a verb on the Merriam-Webster website. Under the "Recent Examples on the Web: Verb" section, I stumbled upon this peculiar quotation:

"That map also showed that the regions of Tampa Bay, Daytona Beach and Palm Beach County stood as more or less equals as the nation’s champs of lightning."

Frankly speaking, "equals" in this quotation doesn't strike me as a verb, but rather as an adverb (stood how? - as equals). So, what is it? And if it's a verb, why then?

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    It's a noun as evident from the fact that it has a plural form "equal" ~ "equals". – BillJ Dec 22 '18 at 15:12
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    It is a noun. Stood as friends. Stood as mates. Stood as brothers. Stood as equals. But that slot cannot take a verb. You can't say "Stood as goes, stood as thinks, stood as buys, stood as calculates". – RegDwigнt Dec 22 '18 at 15:13
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    @BillJ "equals" is both an adjective and a verb in the third person singular. Ending in "s" doesn't necessarily mean it's plural. e.g. It equals. – Centaurus Dec 22 '18 at 16:34
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    @Centaurus True, but it does in the OP's example, where it is complement of the prep "as" - a role typically filled by an NP, in this case a plural one. – BillJ Dec 22 '18 at 17:44
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The Merriam-Webster definition for the verb equal is:

equal verb
equaled or equalled; equaling or equalling

Definition of equal (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb
1 : to be equal to
especially : to be identical in value to
2 archaic: EQUALIZE
3 : to make or produce something equal to


If you scroll down the page, you'll see the heading Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective.

Under that is a See More (+) link.

Click on that, and many examples of the verb equal will be seen—including the example in question:

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

// My family would do occasional vacations and stay at hotels, so to me a hotel equaled a vacation; hotel stays were immeasurably fun as a result.
— Mark Ellwood, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Stories of IRL Eloise: People Who Live in Hotels," 30 Nov. 2018

// The $345,300 Ferrari 488 Pista and $293,200 Porsche 911 GT2 RS equal its 0-60 mph time of 2.7 seconds.
— Basem Wasef, WIRED, "McLaren's $958,966 Senna Hypercar Ain't Pretty, but It Can Whip a Track," 30 June 2018

// That map also showed that the regions of Tampa Bay, Daytona Beach and Palm Beach County stood as more or less equals as the nation’s champs of lightning.
— Kevin Spear, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Florida loses reign as lightning leader to Mississippi," 26 Jan. 2018

The first two examples above are clearly verbs. They describe the actions of one thing equalling another.


But in the example in question, equals is not actually being used as a verb.

When used as a verb, equals is used in the following manner:

X equals Y.

But here is a simplified version of the example sentence in question:

They stood as equals.


In fact, if you look at the heading Recent Examples on the Web: Noun, you'll see the following example:

// In one oil sketch here, a trapper and Indian guide, the exhibition notes, appear as equals on horseback.
— Edward Rothstein, WSJ, "‘Albert Bierstadt: Witness to a Changing West’ Review: Where the Sublime Joins the Melancholy," 25 June 2018

This appear as equals construction mirrors the stood as equals construction from the example in dispute.

Since the same construction (both syntactical and semantic) can't be used for both functions of the word, the categorization of one of the two examples must be in error.


In short, Merriam-Webster made a mistake in including the example you raised in the section reserved for verb usage. It's being used as a noun and should have been put in the noun section instead.


As to your point about it being an adverb:

"How did they stand?"
"They stood as equals."

Here, as equals is acting as an adverbial phrase, but the word equals is, itself, a noun.

Compare it to this:

"How did they drink?"
"The drank like fish."

Here, like fish is also being used as an adverbial phrase, but the word fish is, itself, a noun.

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'Equal' is a noun.

According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary:

equal  noun

: one that is equal

// insists that women can be absolute equals with men — Anne Bernays.

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    -1 Here is the Merriam-Webster definition of the verb form of equal. Your answer does nothing to directly address the question. – Jason Bassford Dec 22 '18 at 15:59

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