Home Grammar The Grammarphobia Weblog: As to ‘as to’

The Grammarphobia Weblog: As to ‘as to’

The Grammarphobia Weblog: As to ‘as to’


Q: Would you sort out the ever present use of “as to” because the go-to substitute for “about”? I’ve observed it among the many college students in my school writing class who’re making an attempt to sound “skilled” (the present phrase for “formal” within the lingo of pre-professionals).

A: The part “as to” has been used for the reason that 14th century by many admired writers—together with Samuel Johnson, Jane Austen, and Henry James—to imply with respect to, regarding, or about.

We see nothing incorrect with the utilization and neither does Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Utilization, which says “it’s a frequent compound preposition in broad use at each stage of ritual.”

The earliest quotation for the phrase within the Oxford English Dictionary is from Ayenbite of Inwyt (Regret of Conscience), a 1340 Center English translation by the Benedictine monk Dom Michelis of Northgate of a Center French treatise on morality:

“Þe ilke þet hateþ his broþer, he’s manslaȝþe ase to his wylle and zeneȝeþ dyadliche” (“he that hateth his brother, he’s a man-slayer as to his will, and sinneth lethal”). We’ve expanded the quotation, which is from a translation of La Somme le Roi (“A Survey for a King,” circa 1395), written for the kids of Philip III by the Dominican Friar Laurent d’Orléans, the king’s confessor and his youngsters’s tutor.

The utilization is in the end derived from the Previous English eall swa (“all so”), an intensification of “so” and an ancestor by means of “progressive phonetic discount” of the Fashionable English “as,” “so,” “additionally,” “as for,” and “as to,” in keeping with the OED.

So far as we are able to inform, no person was troubled by the utilization till the early twentieth century, when H. W. Fowler complained in The King’s English (1907) about the usage of compound prepositions and conjunctions, notably “the absurd prevailing abuse of the compound preposition as to.”

Fowler was particularly troubled by way of “as to” earlier than the conjunction “whether or not,” arguing that “if as to is just disregarded, no distinction no matter is made within the which means.”

However in A Dictionary of Fashionable English Utilization (1926), Fowler acknowledged that the phrase “has a reputable use—to deliver into prominence at first of a sentence one thing that with out it must stand later (As to Smith, it’s not possible to guess what line he’ll take).”

Different utilization writers have criticized “as to” as legalese and wordy in addition to redundant earlier than conjunctions like “how,” “why” and “whether or not.”

Nonetheless, Merriam-Webster’s Utilization notes that the phrase shouldn’t be legalese and is much less wordy than some proposed alternate options, like “regarding” and “concerning.” In truth, M-W says, “If we change it with about, we now have 5 letters, no house, two syllables. How a lot have we gained? Nothing.”

Sure, “as to” is commonly pointless, however we’re among the many many writers who use it. We really feel a phrase like “as as to if” could typically be much less abrupt or extra clear than “whether or not” itself. Listed below are a few Merriam-Webster examples that we’ve expanded:

“My uncertainty as as to if I can so handle as to go personally prevents me from being extra express” (from an April 7, 1823, letter by Lord Byron).

“There ensued an extended dialog as they waited as as to if waiters made extra in precise wages than in ideas” (from “Might Day,” a brief story in Tales of the Jazz Age, 1922, by F. Scott Fitzgerald).

And listed here are a number of of the various M-W citations (a few of them expanded) for “as to” utilized in different methods:

“As to the previous one, I knew not what to do with him, he was so fierce” (Robinson Crusoe, 1719, by Daniel Defoe).

“Fanny had under no circumstances forgotten Mr. Crawford when she awoke the following morning; however she remembered the purport of her notice, and was not much less sanguine as to its impact than she had been the evening earlier than” (Mansfield Park, 1814, by Jane Austen).

“And so you don’t agree with my view as to mentioned photographer?” (from an April 1, 1877, letter by Lewis Carroll).

“There nonetheless remained my relation with the reader, which was one other affair altogether and as to which I felt nobody to be trusted however myself” (The Artwork of the Novel, 1934, by Henry James. From a group of prefaces initially written for a 1909 multivolume version of James’s fiction).

“When girls have been first elected to Congress, the query as to how they need to be referred to in debate engaged the leaders of the Home of Representatives” (The American Language, 4th ed., 1949, by H. L. Mencken).

As Merriam-Webster explains, “As to is discovered mainly in 4 constructions: as an introducer (the use authorized by Fowler and his followers) and to hyperlink a noun, an adjective, or a verb with following matter.”

The utilization information cites these 4 examples from conversations of the 18th-century man of letters Samuel Johnson (cited in James Boswell’s The Lifetime of Samuel Johnson, LL.D, 1791):

“He would start thus: ‘Why, Sir, as to the great or evil of card-playing—’ ‘Now, (mentioned Garrick,) he’s pondering which aspect he shall take.’ ” Johnson is talking right here with the actor David Garrick.

“Sir, there is no such thing as a doubt as to peculiarities.”

“For the worst factor you are able to do to an writer is to be silent as to his works.”

“We’re all agreed as to our personal liberty.”

Within the opinion of the M-W editors, “The entire constructions utilized by Dr. Johnson are nonetheless present. You need to use any of them once they sound correct to you.”

We agree, although another utilization guides have numerous objections. Garner’s Fashionable English Utilization (4th ed.), for instance, says “as to is an all-purpose preposition to be averted at any time when a extra particular preposition will do.”

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