Young, naive and trusting as I was, I believed every lying word he said.

From what I learned, "as" used the way here should mean "though". But if it means "though", the meaning of this sentence is wrong, and a correct sentence should be:

Young, naive and trusting as I was, I didn't believe a single lying word he said.


As I was young, naive and trusting, I believed every lying word he said.

Is my understanding right?

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    Nope, as doesn't mean though here. The sentence roughly means "I believed every lying word he said because I was young, naive and trusting". – RegDwigнt Jan 7 '11 at 18:06
  • @RegDwight: Please see my response below. I had to make it an answer because it involved too much formatting. – Robusto Jan 7 '11 at 20:09
  • It is funny that the need to apologize for making answers should be felt. I know the feeling. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Jan 7 '11 at 20:14

I happen to differ slightly with @RegDwight & @JSBangs on this point.

I believe "as" does not necessarily mean "because" in this context (although it might). I believe it can also be used in the second sense my Webster's gives, which is

2 during the time of being (the thing specified) : he had often been sick as a child | as a student, my nickname was Space.

So in that respect I believe it could mean that "by comparison to the way I am now (that is, older and wiser), I believed every lying word he said."

I think of the beginning of Dylan Thomas' poem "Fern Hill":

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
     About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
       The night above the dingle starry,
         Time let me hail and climb
       Golden in the heydays of his eyes

It is clear that what follows indicates a comparison to a later state, not a causal relationship. That is, the narrator of the poem is at a time of life when he is no longer so "golden" as before. The person who believed the lying bastard may mean the same kind of comparison.

Again, let me stress that I'm not saying that as can't or doesn't mean because in the OP's example; I'm merely pointing out that it may also mean something a little different.

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  • Hold on a sec. At no point did I mean to say that as means because here. What nonsense that would be. I only said that a) it doesn't mean though, and b) the sentence, as a whole, roughly means "I believed [...] because I was [...]". I still mandate that. But it has nothing to do with as — as can be demonstrated by dropping the "as I was" part completely: "Young, naive and trusting, I believed every lying word he said". I thought that was pretty obvious, but then again I do see how my half-assed comment could be misleading, so apologies for that. – RegDwigнt Jan 8 '11 at 16:58
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    I will also add that I don't think that as is used here in the meaning "during, when", either. To me, it simply means "to the same degree or amount", as in "As young, naive and trusting as I was...". It's only in the sentence "As I was young, naive and trusting..." that as might actually mean because or when. However, "As I was young, naive and trusting..." is not the same as "Young, naive and trusting as I was...". – RegDwigнt Jan 8 '11 at 17:45
  • It is a reasonable interpretation, except that "as" in the meaning you gave is a preposition instead of conjunction. I'm inclined to agree with @RegDwight's comment above. – an0 Jan 10 '11 at 17:44

The sentence is correct as written. As is used with the sense of because in this sentence, and is placed before the subject of the subordinate clause as a type of literary inversion. As RegDwight said in the comments, the sentence means "I believed every lying word he said because I was young, naive and trusting".

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After reading through all the discussions, I think one of @RegDwight's comments address the problem most accutely. "As" is used in the sense of comparison here, as indicated by one entry of New Oxford American Dictionary:

2 used to indicate by comparison the way that something happens or is done : dress as you would if you were having guests | they can do as they wish.

But "as" could mean "though":

4 even though : sweet as he is, he doesn't pay his bills | try as he might, he failed to pull it off.

You can see, in fact, the form "as" is used in my sample sentence is a perfect example of this "even though" usage.

However, one interesting fact of English is that sometimes one has to reverse-engineer the usage of a word in a sentence from the acceptable meaning of the sentence, although generally one determines the meaning of a sentence from the usage of the constituent words.

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