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He looked at job advertisements so as to find a new job.

I instinctively used 'so as to' when writing today, and I started wondering what its grammatical function is. This resource (one of few that I can locate online) says that it's a subordinating conjunction; however, aren't subordinate conjunctions supposed to link to subordinate clauses? And shouldn't a clause contain a subject and a verb?

The only example I can think of that contradicts this is something like this:

He was happy though sad.

Even that sentence looks off to me, though.

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  • In your "happy/sad" example sentence, though is not a subordinating but a coordinating conjunction Sep 28, 2021 at 18:56
  • While older grammars hold that a clause requires a finite verb, newer works use the concept of a nonfinite clause such as an infinitival clause. This would be an example, and the subject is implicit.
    – rjpond
    Sep 28, 2021 at 20:01

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I would agree with your resource that "so as to" is here a subordinating conjunction. It introduces "find a new job", which has the verb "find" and an implied subject of "himself".

The Wikipedia article "Clause" says:

In language, a clause is a constituent that links a semantic predicand (expressed or not) and a semantic predicate. A typical clause consists of a subject and a syntactic predicate, the latter typically a verb phrase, a verb with any objects and other modifiers. However, the subject is sometimes not said or explicit, often the case in null-subject languages if the subject is retrievable from context, but it sometimes also occurs in other languages such as English (as in imperative sentences and non-finite clauses). ...

...

A finite clause contains a structurally central finite verb, whereas the structurally central word of a non-finite clause is often a non-finite verb. Traditional grammar focuses on finite clauses, the awareness of non-finite clauses having arisen much later in connection with the modern study of syntax.

Even if the final element contained only a verb, as in:

He looked at job advertisements so as to succeed.

I would still call "so as to" subordinating conjunction. Here the final clause is reduced and the subject is implied, but it is still a dependent clause.

By the way, my personal view is that 'in order to" is clearer and better writing than "so as to" here, and in many cases where a subordinating conjunction (and the resulting subordinate clause) is intended to express purpose. But that is a matter of style, there is nothing at all wrong with using "so as to".

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