Re: "Such as" incorrect? (longish)

Subject: Re: "Such as" incorrect? (longish)
From: Steve Wax <stevewx -at- ESKIMO -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 1995 06:30:36 -0700

>: Just one of my pet peeves, using "like" when "such as" is proscribed. <snip>

Dan 'Fergus' Roberts writes:

>In a completely *un*related vein.....
>An English professor once explained to me why the phrase "nouns such as
>noun, noun, noun" was incorrect and "such nouns as noun, noun, noun" was

>Can anyone here grasp the difference and explain it to me?

Suspect it's the prof's personal prefs, trotted out with all the authority
and regalia of his pedigrees and the implication that an educated consensus
supports his opinion. Some other informed views on the subject:

Follett and Barzun, Modern American Usage:
>*Such as* is close in meaning to *like* and may often be interchanged
>with it. The shade of difference between them is that *such as* leads
>the mind to imagine an indefinite group of objects: *man's great
>inventions, such as the wheel, the steam engine,...* The other
>comparing word *like* suggests a closer resemblance among the
>things compared: *direct satisfactions of sense, like food and

Robert Claiborne, Saying What You Mean
>For over a thousand years, the basic idea of "like" has
>been similarity of one thing to some *other* thing ("My
>love is like a red, red rose"). By this reasoning, the
>phrase "reachers like Jerry Falwell" would not include
>the Reverend Falwell himself, but only those other
>preachers who resemble him. To include him in the group,
>one would have to say "preachers *such as* Jerry Falwell."

>So much for theory; in practice, "like" has been used to
>mean "such as" for a century--yet I still feel rather uneasy
>about using it that way. I can't reasonably insist that you
>share my feelings; I do suggest that when using "like" in
>this sense you watch your context. Are you talking about
>Falwell *and* his clones, or only the clones--and will the
>reader be certain which you mean? To avoid any chance of
>confusion, use "such as" in the first case, "like" in the

Frederick T. Wood, Current English Usage:
>(iii) By strict grammatical rule *such as* should be followed by
>a nominative ('People such as he are not to be trusted'), since
>it is really an elliptical clause with an understood verb to which
>the pronoun is the subject (*such as he is*); but when it refers
>back to an antecedent in the accusative case, the pronoun following
>*such as* is sometimes put in the accusative also ('I dislike
>people such as him'), and this is allowable. Perhaps it is felt
>that the sentence amounts to saying that I dislike him. Cf.
>also 'It is too expensive for people such as us'.

>(iv) Be careful of the placing of the qualifying construction
>*such as*. The following comes from a G.C.E. essay: 'Some
>countries have no sea coast, such as Austria'. But Austria is
>not a sea coast. Obviously, *such as Austria, should have
>followed *countries*. *Such as* should be placed immediately
>after the word it qualifies.

Where the phrase "such as" precedes a noun or nouns to indicate examples, I
prefer to keep "such" and "as" together (as the preceding authors do in
their examples). As far as I can tell, that idiomatic construction is far
more common than the split version.

As Bill Burns suggested, the professor may believe that "used properly,
'such' should be an adjective here modifying the noun "noun."

Another difference the professor may have in mind (or ear) is that in "such
nouns as noun, noun, noun" "such" emphasizes the subject whereas "nouns such
as noun, noun, noun" emphasizes the examples; that is, the words immediately
following "such" get an emphasis. That spin may echo the function of "such"
as an intensifier when used alone (Some tech writers are such snobs).

The difference between "such <noun> as" and "<noun> such as" is vanishingly
small except in a few constructions such as :)

"Such notables as Behan, Thomas, and Morrison drowned genius in liquor,"
which puts a spin on "notables" (particularly *these* notables).

"Notables such as Behan, Thomas, and Morrison drowned genius in liquor"
gives examples of what the writer means by "notables," but the tilt of the
preceding sentence is lost.

Though the particularity and pointing of "such" spins onto the word(s)
immediately following it, I don't think it matters much compared with the
awkwardness or felicity of a given construction. And your ear is usually
your best guide to that.

steve wax stevewx -at- eskimo -dot- com
It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.

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