Thursday, October 27, 2005

grammar question

A minor disagreement, started by one of the Korean teachers, broke out in the staff room. The teacher's question:

Does the phrase "as well as" always take a gerund after it in sentences like:

Last night, I cooked as well as cleaning.


She posed the question to my British coworkers before I walked in.

Let me ask-- does the above sentence look awkward to you, or perfectly normal? To be honest, it looks mighty odd to me, but one of our number insisted on its correctness.

My own feeling was that the above sentence violates parallel structure. To me, this is a better construction:

Last night, I cooked as well as cleaned.

[NB: Actually, the best formulation would be the simplest: Last night, I cooked and cleaned.]

Honestly curious, I decided to look the phrase up in the online Webster's. Interesting discovery: the phrase "as well as" can be considered either (1) a (correlative) conjunction, or (2) a preposition. Webster's implies that interpretation (1) can be rewritten as "and," while (2) can be rewritten as "in addition to."

So consider:

(1a) Last night, I cooked AND cleaning.

(2a) Last night, I cooked IN ADDITION TO cleaning.

In (1a) above, you see the obvious violation of parallel structure, in which case I'm right, and "cleaning" needs to be rewritten as "cleaned." But if (2a) is a fair rendering of "as well as" in its prepositional sense, then I'm wrong, and the gerund "cleaning" is appropriate.

Ultimately, I think I'm right about this, but I'm open to good, strong arguments. Your thoughts?

Wait, I'll anticipate you: someone will doubtless comment that avoiding the "as well as" construction altogether is best. I'd agree. Not much is gained by using that phrase, when a simple "and" does the trick. When you comment, please focus on my question: if you had to choose between "...cooked as well as cleaned" or "...cooked as well as cleaning," which would you pick, and why? Cite sources, please. Here are mine:

re: "as well as" being either conjunction or preposition

re: correlative conjunctions and parallel structure

Other sources found through Google said much the same thing, but as of yet I haven't found Web articles on correlative conjunctions that show what happens when you surround them with verbs and/or verbals. Most online examples deal with nouns and adjectives:

Either Brad or his brother will be there.
This one is as good as mine.

Looking forward to your comments.