The use of as well as is the grammar question that won’t go away! Here’s my original blog posting explaining the usage of this phrase to join words and clauses. However, I didn’t answer a question that came up in a writing group yesterday about using as well as in a list. So, here goes …
Grammatically, the phrase is a preposition (LGSWE calls it a “complex preposition”), although the meaning blurs into a conjunction because as well as joins related ideas (The Grammar Book calls it a “prepositional logical connector” — a preposition that expresses a logical relationship between things).
In practice, this means that both “sides” of as well as must be single items or complete lists. For example:
- Correct: He plays the guitar as well as the violin.*
- Correct: We studied biology and chemistry as well as physics.
Incorrect: We studied biology, chemistry, as well as physics.
Explanation: biology and chemistry is a complete noun group, but biology, chemistry is incomplete
- Correct: The variables are age and sex as well as nationality and marital status.
Incorrect: The variable are age, sex, nationality, as well as marital status.
Explanation: as well as is not a coordinating conjunction (like and), so it can’t connect all the items in a long list like this. Both sides need their own and.
As always, please leave a comment if you have a question!