Author Topic: Avoiding improper uses of the conjunction “as”  (Read 6094 times)

Joe Carillo

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Avoiding improper uses of the conjunction “as”
« on: February 26, 2021, 01:20:51 AM »
When I used to do the Forum’s regular media English watch from 2009 to 2018, a strangely recurrent grammar error I’d find in news reporting was the misuse of the subordinating conjunction “as.” I say strangely because “as” is a basic conjunction that Filipino learners of English are expected to have already mastered by the time they enter college. So every time I stumbled on another mass media misuse of “as,” I’d get the feeling that both reporter and desk editor or perhaps their respective English teachers must have never fully understood its grammar and semantics.


Take a look at this glaring misuse of “as” in the lead of a 2011 story from a major TV network’s news website: “Taal Volcano showed signs of activity as state volcanologists recorded seven quakes there in the last 24 hours.” (This seems like déjà vu, by the way, since Taal has been getting restive again this week.) That use of “as” is flawed because it gives the absurd sense that Taal, as if resenting human intrusion, showed signs of activity when—or even because—the state volcanologists took the trouble of recording the earthquakes around it.

In that problematic sentence, the conjunction “as” links two independent clauses, “Taal Volcano showed signs of activity” and “state volcanologists recorded seven quakes there in the last 24 hours.” But this is a logically faulty linkage because in the context of that sentence, “as” could only mean either “while” or “when,” in one sense, or “because” or “since,” in another sense.

This illogic becomes clear when we replace “as” with those equivalent connectives: (1) “Taal Volcano showed signs of activity while state volcanologists recorded seven quakes there in the last 24 hours”; (2) “Taal Volcano showed signs of activity when state volcanologists recorded seven quakes there in the last 24 hours”; (3) “Taal Volcano showed signs of activity because state volcanologists recorded seven quakes there in the last 24 hours”; (4) “Taal Volcano showed signs of activity since state volcanologists recorded seven quakes there in the last 24 hours.”

Get the drift? All four reconstructions above are false or absurd. In the natural scheme of things, as I already pointed out, volcanoes are inanimate entities incapable of reacting to human presence. And in the context of that lead sentence, the signs of Taal Volcano’s volcanic activity were actually one and the same as the “recorded seven quakes there in the last 24 hours.”

Since it’s now obvious that it’s illogical to use “as” in that lead sentence, how then  should that sentence have been constructed? From a journalistic standpoint, what comes to mind are two simple sentences that don’t require the conjunction “as” at all: (1) “State volcanologists recorded seven quakes at Taal Volcano in the last 24 hours”; and (2) “Seven quakes were recorded at Taal Volcano in the last 24 hours, state volcanologists reported.”

Now, for grammar practice, I’d like readers and serious English learners to analyze and correct these three other serious misuses of “as” in actual lead sentences that I’d gathered from various media outlets over a 12-month period before I first wrote this critique.

Major Metro Manila daily: “The rainy season began this week as the country went through the shortest dry season this year because of the La Niña phenomenon.”

Another major TV network’s news website: “Tragedy struck on Holy Thursday as two people drowned and another one went missing in a river in Oriental Mindoro.”

Another Metro Manila daily: “Camiguin province continues to experience an economic boom as the provincial government is eyeing close to P300 million in investments next year, officials said Thursday.”

Analyze and rectify those three “as” sentences now. I’d be delighted to receive your corrected versions and print them in the Forum.

Click for a timely grammar refresher: A Reacquaintance with Connectives and Discourse Markers

(Next: The germ of an idea remembered)       March 4, 2021                 

This essay, 2,034th of the series, appeared in the column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the Campus Press section of the February 25, 2021 Internet edition of The Manila Times,© 2021 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

Read this article online in The Manila Times:
“Avoiding improper uses of the conjunction ‘as’”

To listen to the audio version of this article, click the encircled double triangle logo in its online posting in The Manila Times.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2021, 12:56:25 AM by Joe Carillo »

Miss Mae

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Re: Avoiding improper uses of the conjunction “as”
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2021, 04:25:35 PM »
Major Metro Manila daily: “The rainy season began this week as the country went through the shortest dry season this year because of the La Niña phenomenon.”

Major Metro Manila daily: “The rainy season began this week after the country went through the shortest dry season this year because of the La Niña phenomenon.”

Another major TV network’s news website: “Tragedy struck on Holy Thursday as two people drowned and another one went missing in a river in Oriental Mindoro.”

Another major TV network’s news website: “Tragedy struck on Holy Thursday when two people drowned and another one went missing in a river in Oriental Mindoro.”

Another Metro Manila daily: “Camiguin province continues to experience an economic boom as the provincial government is eyeing close to P300 million in investments next year, officials said Thursday.”

Another Metro Manila daily: “Since Camiguin province continues to experience an economic boom, the provincial government is eyeing close to P300 million in investments next year, officials said Thursday.”

Joe Carillo

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Re: Avoiding improper uses of the conjunction “as”
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2021, 05:07:49 PM »
Miss Mae, the first two  sentences that you corrected by using the conjunction "as" are absolutely prose perfect.

However, your use of the conjunction "since" for the third sentences is rather iffy. This is because it could be construed as either a preposition with the sense of "in the period after a specified time in the past," or as the conjunction in the sense of "because" or "in view of the fact."

Your reconstruction of that third sentence would be much more precise sense if you use the conjunction "so" in the sense of "for the reason that." It would then read with much greater semantic precision as follows: “Camiguin province continues to experience an economic boom with the provincial government eyeing close to P300 million in investments next year, officials said Thursday.”
« Last Edit: March 19, 2021, 11:38:02 PM by Joe Carillo »

Miss Mae

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Re: Avoiding improper uses of the conjunction “as”
« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2021, 09:56:49 AM »
Uh-oh.

I'd have to practice more then.