12

As owning a car is helpful, it costs a lot.

Is this sentence grammatically wrong? The answer key said 'As' can't be used in this situation. But I think as can be used in many different ways.

  • 2
    Although as can be used in many contexts, although can be used to imply something opposite, I think. – Cardinal Jul 6 '16 at 10:34
  • 9
    No - it's NOT grammatically wrong! It's just that unless you've got a very contrived meaning in mind, it's logically, semantically wrong. One possible contrived context, for example, might be that the speaker takes it for granted governments naturally tend to impose high taxes on things people find "helpful" (since people will probably still want them enough to pay the higher price). From that perspective it could make sense to say that helpful things naturally tend to be expensive. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jul 6 '16 at 12:15
  • 4
    Perhaps the construction the author was reaching for was as ... as? "As helpful as owning a car is, it costs a lot." – steeldriver Jul 6 '16 at 15:05
  • 1
    It is logically and semantically correct. A broken down old car is even more expensive to produce than a new one, yet they are cheaper. Why? Because they are less helpful. Demand is a significant factor in the price of cars and the demand comes from how useful they are. – David Schwartz Jul 6 '16 at 17:16
19

As owning a car is helpful, it costs a lot.

This sentence is grammatically correct, but it doesn't make sense. The reason is that as in this sentence functions as a conjunction meaning because, so it means

Because owning a car is helpful, it costs a lot.

The meaning is "clause1 causes clause2", whereas the intended meaning is that clause1 is a positive effect of owning a car, and clause2 is a negative effect: although has this meaning.

Although owning a car is helpful, it costs a lot.

|improve this answer|||||
  • 2
    I like your explanation. It shows why, even though the O.P.'s sentence doesn't work, we could have a sentence that runs something like this: As fuel and insurance are expensive, it costs a lot [to own a car]. – J.R. Jul 6 '16 at 11:06
  • I don't understand your answer. "Because owning a car is helpful, it costs a lot" makes perfect sense. "Although owning a car is helpful, it costs a lot" also makes perfect sense, but means something completely different. Are you trying to correct grammar or change meaning? If I asked you to correct the grammar of "I have a red car", would you change it to "I have a blue car"? (I do in fact have a blue car and not a red car.) – David Schwartz Jul 6 '16 at 17:10
  • 1
    @DavidSchwartz I assume "doesn't make sense" means "has an obvious logical mistake." Since the logical mistake here is so serious, it raises questions about whether it is really what the speaker meant to say. If I said "I really wanted to go to Mexico, so I didn't get on a plane to go there," you might reasonably correct my "didn't get on a plane" to "got on a plane," wouldn't you? It's valid syntax to say "I wanted to do X; therefore, I did not do X" but it's probably not what a reasonable person would intend to say. The answer here already clearly says it's not a grammatical error. – apsillers Jul 6 '16 at 18:07
  • 1
    @DavidSchwartz I see from your answer that we have fundamental disagreement about whether there is an obvious logical error present in the sentence; that said, this answer does restate the setence as-is with "because" instead of "as". If that is truly the OP's intent (i.e., helpfulness implies cost), then the original meaning of the "as" sentence is clearly spelled out. – apsillers Jul 6 '16 at 18:12
  • 2
    I guess we do. The sentence makes perfect sense to me and expresses a basic economic truth -- price is based on utility as much as production cost. We agree on what the sentence means, however, you claim that the sentence was intended to mean something else. You don't say how you know this. You express a completely different idea as if that was what the speaker intended, and that is totally unjustified. – David Schwartz Jul 6 '16 at 18:19
6

I agree with the answer key.

The sentence is combining two thoughts:

  • Owning a car is useful (this is a positive thing)
  • Owning a car is expensive (this is a negative thing)

Because we are appending a negative to a positive, we need a word to alert the reader that a shift is coming. This would be acceptable:

Although owning a car is helpful, it costs a lot.

The word as could be used to start a sentence like this one, but we would want the second thought to reinforce the first, not provide a offsetting condition; for example:

As owning a car is helpful, it is worth the money.

In such a construct, the word as essentially means "because."

|improve this answer|||||
  • You have completely changed the meaning of the sentence. The original sentence says that cars are expensive because they are helpful. You've changed it to break that connection. You say, "we would want the second thought to reinforce the first, not provide a offsetting condition". How do you know what the speaker wants? – David Schwartz Jul 6 '16 at 17:08
  • I agree with @DavidSchwartz. It's perfectly possible for positive information to have negative consequences, and a construction using "as" is a good, grammatical way to express that. Another example (besides the one in the question): "As he was among friends, he felt free to tell racist jokes." – Andreas Blass Jul 6 '16 at 22:12
  • @AndreasBlass A more equivalent sentence is "As he was among friends, she did not feel free to tell racist jokes." (Note the switch from "cars" to "it" and the negativeness not being ethical but grammatical, as "free" is positively expressed.) – ErikE Jul 7 '16 at 15:35
  • @DavidS - I suppose the original means what you say it means, but logically that interpretation makes little sense. Paper clips are useful, but they don't cost a lot. It's the connection between usefulness and cost that makes me side with the answer key. – J.R. Jul 8 '16 at 9:23
  • @J.R. Cars cost a lot because they are useful. Paper clips, though they are useful, do not cost a lot. Something can be true for one object even though it's not a universal truth. Imagine if something suddenly made cars useless -- what do you think would happen to their price? – David Schwartz Jul 8 '16 at 16:06
0

The sentence is grammatically correct. When used this way, "as" means "because". So the sentence says that cars are expensive because they are helpful. This may or may not be true, but grammar has nothing to do with whether statements are true or false.

Some of the other answers try to change the meaning of the sentence. When correcting grammar, meaning should not be changed unless you are sure the speaker had another meaning in mind. As a factual matter, prices depend on supply and demand. Part of the high price of cars is due to their demand and that demand comes from the fact that they are so useful.

If someone claims it's due to the cost of producing them and that their usefulness is irrelevant, that would be factually incorrect (and, frankly, silly). Used toilet paper is more expensive to produce than new toilet paper. But you pay for one because it is more helpful. A thirty year old broken car is even more expensive to produce than a comparable new car. Yet the new car will be more expensive because it is more helpful and thus is in more demand.

|improve this answer|||||

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.