In this passage from Bertrand Russell's The History of Western Philosophy:

Various forces have put an end to this state of affairs. First, democracy, as embodied in the French Revolution and its aftermaths. The cultured gentlemen, as after the age of Pericles, had to defend their privileges against the populace, and in the process ceased to be either gentlemen or cultured.

Are these two instances of as pronouns or conjunctions?

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    As is never a pronoun; I think you probably mean preposition. If so, the answer depends on what school of analysis you follow. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, for instance, has 'recategorized' most of what traditional grammar called subordinating conjunctions as prepositions. Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 12:47
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    By the way, this paragraph is in some respects non-Standard. It's easy enough to understand, but it wouldn't be acceptable in most academic writing. Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 12:49
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    Thanks, Stoney, I usually use MW as my reference. And they state 'as' an pronoun. I'm confused. I took this paragraph from Russell's book 'The History of Western Philosophy'. His writing is indeed non-Standard. Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 13:13
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    @StoneyB The paragraph was written by a winner of the Nobel prize for literature, a Fellow of the Royal Society and a professor of philosopy at Trinity College. His writing almost *defines" what is acceptable for academic writing!
    – James K
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 14:08
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    t is from the History of Western Philosophy. I have the text here and the OP has quoted it correctly. Russell's writing is superb, though challenging for a learner. It is a model of academic writing, and completely standard English. This really belongs in chat...
    – James K
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 19:56

2 Answers 2


They're both adverbs. The MW Learner's Dictionary says that the as can be used in formal registers to introduce examples.

It's more common to introduce an example with the phrase such as, rather than with as all by itself. That may be why it's not so easy to recognize the usage here.

By the by, the MW Learner's Dictionary lists as as an adverb, a conjunction, and a preposition, but not as a pronoun.


The first one is a conjunction - it combines a word (democracy) with a separate phrase which describes them. I think 'as' is never used as a pronoun; it is often used as* a preposition.

The second one looks like a conjunction as* well, but the sentence sounds a bit strange to me.

* (Bonus questions): what roles do 'as' play here?

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    Thanks. The first 'as', I think, plays as an preposition, the second an adverb. Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 13:16
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    @MichaelSong It's definitely not a preposition. It's interchangeable with when here, so it's an adverb.
    – user32753
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 14:28

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