There is a sentence containing "as" and I have had a problem for a long time in distinguishing whether it means "because" or "while" in the context. Please be more clear in explaining and tell me why this should or shouldn't be depending on grammatical clues. Here it is :

The critically endangered Sumatran orangutan has seen 50% decline in its population over the last 8 years as farmers clear more and more forest for agriculture.

  • 2
    Sometimes the ambiguity is on purpose. If the interpretation with "while" is true, and the author feels that maybe the interpretation with "because" could be true, they might take advantage of this ambiguity to say "while" but strongly hint at "because". I don't know if that's the case in your example.
    – Dan Getz
    Jan 15, 2016 at 13:30
  • It is either and both Jan 15, 2016 at 13:38
  • In this example I think both meanings are actually intended. To avoid blaming the farmers, the writer should have stated what other possible causes there are. Jan 15, 2016 at 13:50
  • Thanks to all of you for that clear and deep explanation. It sounds very sensible that author might have implied both meaning but in either case hasn't he or she already blamed the farmers by using the one word's two pretty close meanings ? cause there's no difference in blaming one like "because of your actions there's 50% decline of animal species or while you clear the forest animal species get harm. Jan 15, 2016 at 14:33
  • It would mean "while" there Jan 15, 2016 at 18:34

1 Answer 1


As stated in the comments, this usage is intentionally ambiguous for rhetorical effect. The author is explicitly stating that the forest clearing happened at the same time, and implicitly stating (or suggesting) that it was the cause of the population decline.


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