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In the fourth book of New Concept English, there is sentence like this:

It is almost always due to some very special circumstances that traces of land animals survive, as by falling into inaccessible caves, or into an ice crevasse, like the Siberian mammoths, when the whole animal is sometimes preserved, as in a refrigerator.

I'm puzzled by the structure "as by falling into inaccessible caves, or into an ice crevasse, like the Siberian mammoths, when the whole animal is sometimes preserved, as in a refrigerator."

Can I rewrite the sentence as

It is almost always due to some very special circumstances that traces of land animals survive, as (is the case) when the whole animal is sometimes preserved, by falling into inaccessible caves, or into an ice crevasse, like the Siberian mammoths,as in a refrigerator.

If so, why is "by falling into inaccessible caves, or into an ice crevasse, like the Siberian mammoths" put before the when-clause, because it is the adverbial modifying the predicate "is sometimes preserved" in the when clause?

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  • Please edit the question to quote the sentence as it appears, in a separate paragrap. When you write "... such a sentence as it is almost..." it is hard to see where your words end and the quoted sentence begins. Jan 23, 2022 at 1:12
  • "As" indicates that the sentence is about to list examples, and can be replaced with "such as". "By" indicates the method by which the bodies were preserved. For example, "bears survive in winter by hibernating." The way you rewrote the sentence is also correct. Jan 23, 2022 at 1:18
  • If as means for example, how do you explain the usage of the conjunction when? We should say the sentence like this:It is almost always due to some very special circumstances that traces of land animals survive. For example, by falling into inaccessible caves, or into an ice crevasse, like the Siberian mammoths, the whole animal is sometimes preserved, as in a refrigerator.
    – Luis
    Jan 23, 2022 at 3:42
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    There is no problem here. The paragraph doesn't need to be rewritten. In the example "as" simply means "like", and is introducing some examples. "when" is being used to add more information about the given example of Siberian mammoths.
    – Billy Kerr
    Apr 12, 2023 at 10:39

2 Answers 2

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as by is not a structure. It occurs like this:

"traces of land animals survive by falling into inaccessible caves, or into an ice crevasse".

Then, the author added as to mean for example.

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Yes, you could rewrite the sentence that way.

I think I would prefer "as, for example, when ...".

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  • I don't think you have answered my question.
    – Luis
    Jan 23, 2022 at 8:48
  • @Luis This answers "yes" to the "Can I rewrite ...?" part of your question. You added the second question about the grammar after I posted. I will leave that question to someone else. Jan 23, 2022 at 17:02
  • Ethan Bolk, thank you for your answer. It's better for you to tell me why I can rewrite the sentence that way. After all, the compiler of New Concept English is a famous linguist, Why did he write the sentence in his way, not in my way?
    – Luis
    Jan 23, 2022 at 22:34
  • I said that you could rewrite the sentence as you propose, because the meaning is the same. Then I suggested an alternative I would prefer for stylistic reasons. Jan 23, 2022 at 22:42

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