5

Example Sentence:

Public transportation such as train or bus.

Question: What do the words "such as" refer to?

Do the words "such as" refer to "public transportation" or to "train and bus"?

I had this question in my exam.

  • I would honestly prefer, 'such as trains or buses' or 'such as the train and the bus' but that's another matter. The example as is does not sound very natural to me, but since nobody else has mentioned it, maybe it's okay in the States or something? – Au101 Aug 30 '16 at 4:38
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    This is a very poorly-phrased question, I think. As a native speaker (with very strong English language skills, if standardized testing is to be believed), I would have no idea what the question was talking about. The phrase such as certainly has meaning, but I would not think of it as referring to something. And I agree with @Au101 (and I'm from the States) that the plural would sound much more natural in this construction (and, failing that, the use of articles would be appropriate). – KRyan Aug 30 '16 at 16:24
  • "train or bus" is not grammatical. I would say "the train or the bus" or "a train or a bus" or "trains or buses". Is this why the teacher marked the answer incorrect? – Jim Green Aug 30 '16 at 16:27
  • No,said that "such as" always refers to a word in front of it... – Sergey Kozak Aug 30 '16 at 18:05
5

"Such as" is a phrase meaning "for example" or "like". Another way to write the sentence would be: "Public transportation, like trains or buses,"

  • I said that "train and bus" it's a correct answer. And teacher answered that it is wrong. What do you think about this? – Sergey Kozak Aug 29 '16 at 17:34
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    I think the argument could be made either way, but "such as" introduces examples of the original item mentioned, and in my opinion it points to those examples. I would ask the teacher his or her reasoning. – BuffyOverflow Aug 29 '16 at 20:10
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The key to the question is the meaning of refer to. We often just think this means linked to or corresponds with and people often use it like this.

So logically, such as connects to both public transportation and train or bus.

There is, therefore, no clear "correct" answer.

The most careful and thoughtful answer is train or bus because the definition of refer to we'd expect to be operative here is alludes to, and such as alludes to the examples: trains or buses.

Smartest action: Maybe don't correct your teacher!

  • 2
    @SergeyKozak I would argue that such refers to "public transportation" and as refers to "train or bus", and therefore the question is oversimplified. Such means "of this type". As is introducing the list of examples. It could also be written "Such public transportation as train or bus", where the references are more clear. – nmclean Aug 30 '16 at 13:12
  • @nmc Keen analysis – Jim Reynolds Aug 30 '16 at 14:16
8

'Such as' can be used in two different ways:

  1. 'Quadratic equations such as 3x^2+2x+1=0 can be solved using the quadratic formula' means all quadratic equations can be solved using this method, and the sentence is only giving an example for illustration.

  2. 'People such as him are very evil' means people like him are very evil and not all people are evil.

You need to determine from the context which case it is. Hence without further information, 'public transportation such as train or bus' could mean public transportation in general (first sense above) or specifically trains and buses only (second sense above).

  • Where I can find this rule?I want to show it to the teacher.Thank you very much!!! – Sergey Kozak Aug 29 '16 at 19:43
  • No,she said that "such as" always references to the word in front of it.I think it is a stupid question//that's all...thank you) – Sergey Kozak Aug 29 '16 at 19:50
7

Such as means for example in this instance.

The example sentence is not a sentence, since at a minimum, it is missing a verb. Regardless, we can still examine the phrase with for example:

Public transportation for example train or bus

So trains and buses are examples of public transportation.

As for what such as refers to, I believe it is unclear. One could argue that such as refers to public transportation since the examples are about that. But such as also indicates what the examples are, so it could refer to the examples as well.

  • I said that "train and bus" it's a correct answer. And teacher answered that it is wrong. What do you think about this? – Sergey Kozak Aug 29 '16 at 17:33
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    @SergeyKozak Actually, I personally believe the question is vague. I believe you could argue that such as refers to public transportation since the examples are about that. But such as also indicates the two examples, so it could refer to the examples as well. So I don't think it's particularly clear. – Em. Aug 29 '16 at 17:46
3

The phrase such as train or bus is, in effect, an adjectival phrase modifying public transportation. The nouns train and bus are subordinate to such as. The only way the question makes sense to me is as asking what these words modify.

I wouldn't use "refer to" in this sense (I'd probably use "apply to"), but it's not impossible; I can readily imagine such a question being asked about a Latin sentence in which (as often happens, especially for poetic effect) an adjective is separated from its noun (but linked to it by gender and case).

  • I think this is probably the answer the teacher was expecting, but the OP can take heart that most of the readers here would also have got it "wrong". – IMSoP Aug 30 '16 at 12:24
1

In the absence of commas, the use "such of" would refer to both of the following items. Adding commas, could change the meaning, e.g. "He usually arrives via some form of public transportation such as a train, or a taxi." The meaning of the latter may be enhanced by repeating the preposition, e.g. "He usually arrives via some form of public transportation such as a train, or else via a taxi."

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