A reader asks,
Will you please comment on the use of “as well as” as used below:
“Deng Xiaoping made a significant contribution with his theoretical courage of Marxism, matter-of-fact attitude, rich experience, as well as his foresight and sagacity.”
“As well as” doesn’t seem to me to be equivalent to “and.”
According to Merriam-Webster, “as well as” is equivalent to and:
as well as conjunction: and in addition, and.
According to The Chicago Manual of Style, however, it is not:
Note that the phrase as well as is not equivalent to and.
WRONG: The team fielded one Mazda, two Corvettes, three Bugattis, as well as a battered Plymouth Belvedere.
RIGHT: The team fielded one Mazda, two Corvettes, and three Bugattis, as well as a battered Plymouth Belvedere.— 6.18
The phrase “as well as” and the single word and are not equivalents because and joins two elements of equal importance, but “as well as” places more emphasis on one of the elements. Compare:
My dog and cat bring me things to throw.
My cat and dog bring me things to throw.
My cat, as well as my dog, brings me things to throw.
In the first two sentences, no distinction is made between cat and dog. In the third sentence, an unequal emphasis is placed upon cat, suggesting that there is something notable about the action as it applies to the cat.
This use of “as well as” is similar to the correlative “not only…but also,” but the emphasis falls on the element that precedes “as well as.”
Note: When “as well as” is mistakenly perceived to mean and, problems of agreement arise. Chicago addresses this in Paragraph 5.133:
[The intervening “as well as”] seems to create a compound subject, and [a] modifying prepositional phrase may itself contain one or more plural objects. If the singular verb sounds awkward in such a sentence, it may be better to use the conjunction and instead:
WRONG: The bride as well as her bridesmaids were dressed in mauve.
RIGHT: The bride as well as her bridesmaids was dressed in mauve.
BETTER: The bride and her bridesmaids were dressed in mauve.
If no contrasting emphasis is intended, and is the better choice.