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When one says:

I want A as well as B.

Which does one precisely mean by using "as well as"?

1) I want A and B. (Just a simple conjunction)

2) I want A as much as I want B. (Emphasis on A being wanted, as in: I want not only B, but also A, or: I want A as much as I want B)

3) I want B as much as I want A. (Emphasis on B being wanted, as in: I want not only A, but also B, or: I want B as much as I want A)

4) Either of 1, 2, or 3. (Depends on the context)

5) Something else.

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    Number 1. There is no sense of emphasis at all. Mar 25, 2017 at 15:57
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    If it has any extra meaning, I would interpret it as "Of course/As you already know, I want B; and I also want A to go with it."
    – 1006a
    Mar 25, 2017 at 15:58
  • In other contexts, there could possibly be ambiguity. But yours can only mean in addition to (primary implication: I want both, not just B). The "equal desire" sense would be expressed as I want A as much as [I want] B. Mar 25, 2017 at 16:14

2 Answers 2

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This use of as well as can be a response to a situation in which one is offered a choice but wants both options - having your cake and eating it:

Do you want to go skiing this year or would you prefer a beach holiday?

The response:

I want to go skiing as well as having a beach holiday.

The phrase is also used to emphasise twin objectives, as in:

I want to return the books to the library as well as fetching the children from school.

Where the emphasis falls will depend on the context although B is more often understood and A is additional.

The phrase is also used quite differently as a simile.

She is as well as can be expected.

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As well as does not have a ‘precise’ meaning: the meaning varies in different registers.

In formal registers, it means approximately the same thing as “in addition to”: it heads a supplemental phrase and marks its oblique as another entity which also participates in the role of the entity to which it is attached. Usually the oblique is ‘old information’—an entity previously introduced into the discourse.

X: We’re discussing B.
Y: I beg your pardon, we’re discussing A as well as B.

Note that in this use the as well as phrase can move:

As well as B, we’re

In casual speech and writing, however, as well as is often used as a conjunctive phrase equivalent to and.

A as well as B were present.

This use in my experience is motivated by an effort to avoid repeated ands in a discourse, a sort of ‘elegant variation’. It doesn’t really add any nuance to the discourse, and it makes the syntax harder to parse for those who expect as well as to introduce a supplement; so it should probably be avoided.

Note, by the way, that with either use you can make things easier on your readers/hearers by maintaining parallelism between the adduced or joined entities if as well as appears in the conjunction position:

 I want to            go  skiing 
           as well as ⇕
                      have a beach holiday.

 I want to            return the books to the library 
           as well as ⇕
                      fetch  the children from school.

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