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As a student, he ...

When he was a student, he ...

If I understand right, there is no difference in meaning between the sentences except the phrase "as a student" doesn't contain time reference. Am I right?

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    Depending on the verb tense, as a student could mean either when he was a student or because he is a student. Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 11:17
  • @Kate Bunting, Does it mean that "as a student" can't be used with future tense? For example, "As a student, he will do that quicker."
    – Sergei
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 11:41
  • As a student (because he is one), he will receive a discount on purchases from this store. Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 11:55

2 Answers 2

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The two phrases do not mean the same thing, even though they are sometimes both correct in the same contexts, and sentences with either phrase can have similar enough meanings to be equivalent.

"When he was a student" refers to the time he spent as a student.

"As a student" means "in his capacity as a student".

So these two sentences are roughly the same:

When he was a student, he worked hard.
As a student, he worked hard.

But these pairs of sentences are not the same:

When he was a student, he was adequate. (He was adequate at something during the time he was a student.)
As a student, he was adequate. (He was an adequate student.)

When he was a student, his mother died. (His mother died during the time he was a student.)
As a student, his mother died. (His mother died when she was a student.)

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  • What do you mean by "the final sentences"?
    – Sergei
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 10:23
  • Honestly, I don't see the difference in usage between your first and second example. "When he was a student, he worked hard." - Reading that I think he could work hard at his job. "When he was a student, he was adequate." - Here could be the same thing. Are you agree?
    – Sergei
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 11:39
  • @Sergei I've edited my first paragraph. Lemme know if it's easier to understand now.
    – gotube
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 20:28
  • @Sergei Yes, I agree that in both examples, the second part of the sentence could refer to something other than his capacity as a student. In my first example, however, unless the context mentioned that he had a job, the first sentence would be understood to mean the same as the second. It's like the sentence "He was a hard-working student" could be naively read to mean he worked hard at his job while he was a student, but the only natural reading of that sentence or the sentences in my first example is: "He worked hard at his studies when he was a student".
    – gotube
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 20:38
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As a student, he was conscientious.
He was a conscientious student.
When he was a student, he was conscientious.

have the same meaning (even though they might allude to different ideas).

The phrase "as a student" doesn't contain a time reference. The verb provides it.

Since it doesn't include time, you can use it with any tense (including the future):

As a mother, she will always love him.

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