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In the clause 'He died as he had lived', what is the grammatical function of 'as he had lived'? I know it modifies 'died', and I know 'as' can be used.

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    In this sentence, "as" is not a preposition. It is actually a conjunction.
    – MetaEd
    Nov 27, 2023 at 22:32
  • Thank you. What is the easiest way to tell the difference? Nov 27, 2023 at 22:36
  • If 'as' is used to compare using a direct object ( "light as a feather" ), it's a preposition. In this sentence, as is used to connect two parts of the sentence ( He died AS he had lived)
    – suse
    Nov 28, 2023 at 5:21
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    "As" is a preposition, so "as he had lived" is a preposition phrase functioning as complement of "died". The comparative clause "he had lived" is complement of the preposition "as".
    – BillJ
    Nov 28, 2023 at 7:38
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    @MetaEd That's a very 19th century conception of prepositions, although you will still find it used in dictionaries (which nearly all have a 19th century-level understanding of grammar) and in some schools. However, 21st century grammars such as Oxford Modern English Grammar for example, prepositions are a word class just like nouns verbs adjectives and so forth, and just like verbs can take different types of complement, for example noun phrases or clauses. And under that modern simpler and more elegant classification as is a preposition here, not one of the small number of subordinators. Nov 28, 2023 at 10:03

1 Answer 1

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He died [as he had lived].

As the Original Poster suspects, the string as he had lived is a Modifier of the verb phrase died. (It's a verb phrase as opposed to merely a verb because it forms the predicate of the clause). Modifiers of verb phrases or clauses are often referred to as 'Adjuncts' (or 'Adverbials').

The string as he had lived is a preposition phrase, where we see the word as heading an equative construction. In old-fashioned grammars, the word as would be considered a subordinating conjunction. In modern grammars it is considered a preposition regardless of whether it is followed by a noun phrase or a clause.

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  • A learner might want to know how we can know that "he had lived" is an "equative" construction when all we know is that "as" is a preposition. Is there an online resource, perhaps, that groups clause-complemented-prepositions according to the types of complement-clauses they license, or that defines the preposition's semantic functions?
    – TimR
    Nov 28, 2023 at 13:39
  • @TimR There might be, but I'm not familiar with it. There's hardly any that take comparative clauses though (as/like/than perhaps a couple of others). This is something you'd need to deal when learning about equatives/comparatives. Nov 28, 2023 at 13:41
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    It's all been very useful to me. Thank you. Nov 28, 2023 at 22:23

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