I wrote this sentence:

He exerted total supremacy over his enemy as when he defeated the whole army himself a few years ago.

I am not so sure if "as when" is grammatical here. I am trying to mean something like "just like when he..." and make it sound a little more formal. Is it grammatically correct?

  • You are not asking about the word "ago," but it seems to me that the meaning conveyed here is dependent on context. If the context implies that the first part of the sentence occurred yesterday, then the event that occurred "a few years ago" was earlier. If the context is "that time when he fought the third division," then the defeat of the whole army could have been earlier or later. I'm also left wondering how even the best warrior defeats a whole army with no help whatsoever from anyone else.
    – David K
    Apr 10, 2018 at 11:37
  • @DavidK I'm sorry that the sentence structure was a bit confusing. The part where he exerts total supremacy over his enemy is the current situation that I'm describing and the time he defeated the whole army is an occurrence that happened a few years ago, and I am comparing the total supremacy part to the whole army part. Also, I know that it doesn't make much sense that he defeated the whole army himself. I was just writing a sentence to ask this question about the use of as when.
    – nox15
    Apr 10, 2018 at 23:44
  • No problem. The point possibly wasn't worth bringing up. I'm sure if you were to write a sentence like this "for real", it would occur in a context that made the meaning clearer. In the context you imply in your comment, "a few years ago" is a fine way to specify the time when that action occurred.
    – David K
    Apr 11, 2018 at 3:33
  • @DavidK Thank you for your answer. So, to convey the meaning I intended, how should the sentence be rewritten?
    – nox15
    Apr 11, 2018 at 21:11
  • Depending on the context, it may not need rewriting. If the timeline is not already clear from context, however, you could insert a word such as "today" or "yesterday" (or whatever time is correct) before "as when".
    – David K
    Apr 12, 2018 at 3:35

2 Answers 2


It would make sense if you added some qualifying elements to the sentence. One example (there are many that would work):

He exerted total supremacy over his enemy on several occasions, such as when he defeated the whole army himself a few years ago.

As it stands, however, it sounds at least awkward if not downright ungrammatical.

  • Oh but I think that changes the meaning of the sentence. I'm talking about how he exerted total supremacy over this particular enemy he's fighting at the moment just like when he defeated the whole army a few years ago.
    – nox15
    Apr 10, 2018 at 3:05
  • 1
    Then you may want “over his enemy, just as he did when...”
    – mamster
    Apr 10, 2018 at 3:18
  • @nox15: The point is that something else is needed. My suggestion was just an example, one of a possibly infinite number of examples. (I've edited to make that clear.)
    – Robusto
    Apr 10, 2018 at 3:20
  • This answer raises the legitimate point that the sentence sounds ungrammatical. It's hard to parse, and while trying to parse it we're naturally going to try to fill in the "missing" words that would make the sentence easier to read. I think the intended meaning is the most plausible reading and that the example shown in this answer is a misreading, but it's such a subtle misreading that you really should expect a large number of literate readers to make similar misinterpretations. The remedy is to write in a clearer style.
    – David K
    Apr 10, 2018 at 11:24
  • So how could it be changed to be both grammatical and convey the intended meaning?
    – nox15
    Apr 11, 2018 at 3:02

It is grammatically correct, but unusual: most people would add a comma before as to make it easier to read.

He exerted total supremacy over his enemy, as when he defeated the whole army himself a few years ago.

It can be made a bit more readable by adding he did:

He exerted total supremacy over his enemy, as he did when he defeated the whole army himself a few years ago.

The meaning of as in this context is defined in the Oxford Dictionary, meaning 2 as: Used to indicate by comparison the way that something happens or is done.. A more common example of this usage would be:

He went to work by bus, as usual

as has a lot of possible meanings so its usage can be confusing. You could use like, but as you mentioned it does sound rather informal. Alternative ways of saying the same thing formally in this context would be such as or for example.

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