'As well as' can't do everything 'and' can do


“As well as” can join two nouns that are the subject of a sentence, “John as well as Jane is here.” In these cases, it’s hard to know whether you want a singular verb like “is” or a plural verb like “are.” Inexplicably, everyone handles these situations well.

But “as well as” can also add an item to the end of a list: “Specialties include pasta, steaks, chops and fresh seafood, as well as craft cocktails.” That’s where people mess up, instead structuring sentences like this: “Specialties include pasta, steaks, chops, fresh seafood, as well as craft cocktails.”

Notice how the “and” before fresh seafood has disappeared. The result: a grammatical error based on the belief that, because “as well as” works kind of like “and,” it can replace “and.” Not so.

“And” is classified as a coordinating conjunction and, as a member of that club, it has a special power: It can be used in lists to signal that the next item will be the last item in the list. You don’t say the flag is red, white, blue. You say it’s red, white and blue. You don’t say your piggy bank contains pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters. You say it contains pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

“As well as” can’t do “and’s” job in those situations because it’s not a coordinating conjunction. Some people call it a quasi-coordinator because it has some properties of “and” but not all. Here's my recent column with everything you need to know.

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