1

He had told no one about the marriage. He did not feel it was a reason for celebration. Katerina had made it clear that it was a purely practical measure, a way for her to get an allowance. As such it was a very good idea, and Grigori would be less anxious, when he was away with the army, knowing that she had financial security. All the same he could not help feeling there was something horribly farcical about the wedding. Katerina was not so shy, and all the girls from the boardinghouse were in the congregation, as well as several workers from the Putilov plant.

-- Ken Follett, Fall of Giants

Does the phrase itself mean by itself, or is as an conjunction and does such refer to something?

4

Good question.

  1. No, it doesn't mean by itself. When as such has that meaning, it follows the word or phrase it describes, so it has to be in the middle or at the end of a sentence. Here, it comes at the beginning of the sentence, so it can't have that meaning.
  2. Is it a conjunction? Sure, if you like. The grammar you're reading about in CGEL doesn't use that term, though. We can probably call it a connective adjunct, if we like.
  3. Does such refer to something? Well, before we answer this, we should take a look at how as such is used.

Here's the traditional way of looking at as such:

  1. You use the word such to avoid repeating something. Therefore, such should have an antecedent. In example 1a below, we repeat the phrase a dairy farmer. In example 1b, we replace it with such to avoid the repetition:

    1a. He's a dairy farmer. As a dairy farmer, he knows a lot about milk.
    1b. He's a dairy farmer. As such, he knows all about milk.

  2. This adjunct should have an implied subject, present in the main clause. In our example, the implied subject is he:

    2a. He's a dairy farmer. As a dairy farmer, he knows all about milk.
    2b. He's a dairy farmer. As [he is] a dairy farmer, he knows all about milk.

    And when we replace a dairy farmer with such to avoid repetition, we have the same requirement:

    2c. He's a dairy farmer. As such, he knows all about milk.
    2d. He's a dairy farmer. As [he is] such, he knows all about milk.

If you want to be prescriptively correct, as you might when taking an English test, you should follow these two requirements. You need an antecedent for such before you use it, and you need a subject for as such after you use it. People may complain that your usage is wrong if you don't!

However, in common usage, both requirements are dropped. People use as such without an antecedent, and they use it when it can't possibly predicate on the subject from the main clause. When they do, it's essentially a synonym of therefore or thus.

So your question is: which is it?

  • Is it a traditional as such with an antecedent and an implied subject?
  • Or does it just mean therefore?

To answer this, let's look at your example and see if we can find an antecedent:

He had told no one about the marriagei. He did not feel iti was a reason for celebration. Katerina had made it clear that iti was a purely practical measure, a way for her to get an allowance. As such iti was a very good idea, and Grigori would be less anxious, when he was away with the army, knowing that she had financial security.

The noun phrases I've marked with subscript i are co-indexed. That means they refer to the same thing; in each case it refers to the marriage.

So the subject of our as such sentence refers to the marriage. If we work backwards from as such and find the most recent copular construction ("A is B") that refers to the marriage, we find that the marriage was "a purely practical measure, a way for her to get an allowance". That sure looks like an antecedent to me!

Let's try substituting it in for such:

He had told no one about the marriagei. He did not feel iti was a reason for celebration. Katerina had made it clear that iti was a purely practical measure, a way for her to get an allowance. As [iti was] a purely practical measure, a way for her to get an allowance, iti was a very good idea, and Grigori would be less anxious, when he was away with the army, knowing that she had financial security.

So such can be construed as having an antecedent! And the implied subject of that clause refers to the same thing as the subject of the following main clause, so it meets the other traditional requirement too. This use of as such meets both of the traditional requirements!

So yes, I think it does refer to something.

  • +1 Excellent. But I have methodological qualms about treating as such as a reduced subordinate clause; I think as here is a preposition. But that's just niggling. – StoneyB Sep 28 '13 at 11:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.