There's a regular palaver on Meta about the declining quality of questions, the endless flood of questions by English language learners, the proliferation of poorly evidenced SWR answers. Like many others, I miss the "old days" when there was a greater proportion of questions that probed the wonders and conundrums of our unique language.

What a delight then, to find a genuinely interesting and challenging question - Verbs after 'as well as' - with a good range of answers (declaration: mine is one of them), some degree of agreement that none of us quite know what the right answer is, and even an open bounty.

So why has it only received three upvotes (and even a downvote!)? Where have the language lovers gone? Do we really, secretly, prefer to whinge than to upvote? Is there no grammarist or other specialist to come to our rescue?

I'm not after votes for my own answer; maybe it's not the right answer anyway. But this is a bit of a bump for a question that I truly think deserves more attention and greater recognition. So perhaps, as a meta question, I'm also asking whether the lack of votes indicates that that kind of "advanced question" is genuinely unpopular on our site.

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    I don't know if this is ironic, but historically, deeper questions tend to get low voting and superficial ones much higher. Something like too many words and thoughts are avoided, but yes! I know a word for what my aunt feels when her boyfriend has a child from a former tenant. It has to be a former tenant. A current tenant changes everything. So I wouldn't call it unpopular necessarily, just not as well trafficked.
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 13:17
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    It is an interesting question, so thanks for bringing it to my attention. I suspect the problem is that the title is incredibly generic, sounding like the dozens of less-interesting, basic learner's questions that are posted here every day and which many regulars just don't read. If it said something like "Verbs after 'as well as'—is this Merriam-Webster example wrong?" or "Why don't we need an -ing form of 'read' after 'as well as' in 'I write, as well as read, fiction'?" I think it would probably get more traffic.
    – 1006a
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 14:22
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    Hate to say it, but one problem is that the beginning of the question is physically unattractive.
    – ab2
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 22:45
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    I think the question needed someone to come to the rescue early on and do a major edit on it to make the fundamental question clearer and to make the whole presentation tidier. The volume of questions on the site means there is competition for attention and good fundamental questions will be missed if the header question is poorly presented and if the body of the question is difficult to digest.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 4:31
  • Thanks everyone for the positive feedback and suggestions. I've amended the title (kudos to @1006a: I used your wording). It would be great if some experts in grammar/linguistics could now help resolve the answer ;-) Commented Sep 22, 2018 at 3:28
  • I read through that question several times, and found it too confused to think about answering. There's the false equative construction (She does Y as well as she does X) to dispose of, and then the confusion with subject noun phrases (A, as well as B, was ...), as if the form of verb were determined exclusively by the presence or absence of the phrase as well as. When there's a question that's motivated by incorrect presuppositions, it's too hard to answer. (BTW, I would hardly consider myself a "purist".) Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 23:09
  • @JohnLawler there's no doubt nearly every contributor struggled with the question, and I think the reason is that the many other examples (beyond the initial MW one) introduced unnecessary complications. I was really hoping a grammarian like yourself might have waded through the dross and held aloft the shiny solution to whether the MW example is right/wrong and why. I was most disappointed that the bounty-winner didn't respond to my two comments about CGEL's position, which itself failed to explore the gerund-participial issue. Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 23:40
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    If one starts with the assumption that a sentence must be either right or wrong, one is already hopelessly confused. There is no "why" to "right/wrong"; it's all individual taste and random fancy. If there's anything shiny in that mess, it seems to have evaded everybody. Commented Sep 27, 2018 at 18:55

1 Answer 1


I thought I should provide an update, but it seems more appropriate to post it as an answer rather than as an edit to the original question. My apologies if this is not the preferred practice.

The question "Have the purists all gone on holiday?" was deliberately provocative and ironic, but while it did note the long-standing debate about our site's proclivities, the core intention was to raise the profile of an under-appreciated question. The comments on my meta post were constructive, and an edit to the title of the [prescriptive-grammar] question resulted in a substantial surge in views/votes/comments. Those comments appear to have stimulated the asker and several of the answerers to further refine their posts, creating a virtuous cycle of repeated bumping and additional views/engagement.

I'm delighted to report that the [prescriptive-grammar] question eventually achieved a significant response. Here are some stats on that question, as of 27 Sept 2018:

  • Total views: 366
  • Votes on question: 23 total (19 up, 4 down, net +15) [previously +3/-1 = +2]
  • Answers: 6 [previously 4]
  • Votes on answers: 40 total (24 up, 16 down)
  • Comments: 44 total
  • Votes on comments: 45 total

That gives an overall total of 158 separate contributions (answers, comments, votes), not counting all the edits to both question and answers. My assessment: while it took a bit of nudging, the question eventually achieved a substantial response from the EL&U community.

I'd love to report that the prescriptive-grammar question has now been resolved, but unfortunately I don't think that's the case. As John Lawler notes in his comment, the question itself is confusing, and involves "incorrect presuppositions"; to make matters worse, the OP edited in new elements in an attempt to clarify the issue but which only complicated the issue further.

So I have a dilemma.

I think the core question - does the conjunction "as well as" require a gerund-participial in the subordinate clause - has not been resolved. Generalist grammar sources simplistically say "the second verb takes the -ing form", and this appears to be support in CGEL, but opposed by Fowler. But the original question brings in other elements that result in other examples which don't involve subordinate clauses being discussed.

In addition, there's the matter of usage and whether there might be regional variation. I'm interested in whether the MW example - which sounds wrong to my Australian ears - is standard American usage, and whether British English prefers the gerund-participial.

I would appreciate your thoughts on whether a new EL&U question, strictly focusing on the "core" question above (but linking to the previous question and referencing the relevant points in it), would be
(a) regarded as a duplicate of the previous question, and
(b) too broad if it also asked about variation in regional usage?

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    I think a re-ask would be appropriate. It would be a clearer asking of a detail of the original, where editing of the OP would be too intrusive. There may be some kneejerk close-as-dup voting, but you should give a link to the original and to this meta. Asking about regional variation is not too broad; it may get multiple individual 'I do it this way' answers, but a better answer would try to consolidate.
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 27, 2018 at 15:27
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    I think if you can clearly identify an aspect that isn't answered, that's a new question. For the question of regional variation it might help to start a community-wiki answer that would allow users from different regions to weigh in within a single answer (I know some folks hate CW, but I personally think it's a great tool for dialect-variation questions.) FWIW, the M-W example sounds wrong to my AmE ear, too, but there are some other non-gerund examples that sound fine or even preferred.
    – 1006a
    Commented Sep 27, 2018 at 21:15

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