Assuming america = usa:

  1. America as we know it
  2. America as it relates to people

The first phrase translates roughly to "America in the form in which we know it (america)". The second phrase translates roughly to "America in the way in which it relates to people".

In phrase 1, the modifier "as we know it" concerns the state/form of an entity (America).
In phrase 2, the modifier "as it relates to people" concerns the activity of an entity (America).

Both phrases are supposed to be noun phrases denoting an entity. So, any modifiers should be about some static attribute (like state or form) of the entity, not some possible activity.
Hence, I am not comfortable with phrase 2.

On the other hand, this:

3 Sports as they relate to people

is okay, because sports are activities, so a modifier concerning the manner the activity is carried out makes sense.

1 Answer 1


Noun phrases don't always denote an entity. Nominalisations are great examples of this, but there are plenty of verbs that denote an activity, and can be used as nouns:

  • war
  • battle
  • stare

In any case, it's possible that your rendering of the phrases is incorrect:

  1. America as we know it

    America with respect to our knowledge of it

  2. America as it relates to people

    America with respect to people

as is a tricky word, since it has so many meanings and functions. However, you can probably substitute, in the above examples, as with with respect to [noun phrase].

It's best not to define word classes entirely semantically; this leads you down a dark and twisted path.

  • How should "firearm laws as they apply to private property" be understood?
    – meatie
    Jun 25, 2014 at 11:35
  • "firearm laws with respect to private property" - firearm laws that are related to private property, for instance.
    – jimsug
    Jun 25, 2014 at 11:37

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