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Word Usage "When" or "As"?

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I didn't know where to post this, but if anyone can chime in, I'd appreciate it.

I tend to rely on the word "as" too much. I wanted to replace it with "when" in the two sentences below. Does it work in both sentences grammatically or otherwise? Should I use as in one sentence and not the other? Thanks for the assist.

“Hello, Officer Jamison, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Dr. John Wallace,” the doctor said when/as he entered.

The size of the table created an ocean between them when/as his thin frame leaned over it to shake her hand. He sat across from her, placed the folder down, and opened it to the first page. “I’m sure you must be wondering why you’ve been summoned here,” he said.
#1 - June 23, 2015, 05:23 AM

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Hey Ed,

To me, "when" tends to indicate an action that has stopped, whereas "as" makes me feel like the action is in progress. Technical, I know.

In terms of which one works better in the sentences below, I think both are grammatically fine, though I'd probably choose "when" in the first sentence and "as" in the second.

These links might help:
http://partofspeech.org/what-part-of-speech-is-as/
http://partofspeech.org/what-part-of-speech-is-when/

Good luck!
#2 - June 23, 2015, 07:00 AM
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I agree with Jody on the immediacy of "as." Sometimes it's subtle, but there.
#3 - June 23, 2015, 07:37 AM
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"As" implies things happening simultaneously. If you cut "as" in all instances where two actions are really not simultaneous, that may help right there.

In your first sentence, I'm betting the doctor entered the room first, then spoke. "After" might be the most accurate word, but actually I'd recast the sentence(s). Maybe something like this:

The doctor entered. "Officer Jamison, Dr. John Wallace." He extended his hand. "A pleasure to meet you."

I think "as" is fine in the second sentence. This sense of the table as an ocean is being created at the time two characters try to reach across it.
#4 - June 23, 2015, 07:54 AM
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Quote
The doctor entered. "Officer Jamison, Dr. John Wallace." He extended his hand. "A pleasure to meet you."

I think mrh hit on something with this revision. If you feel you're overusing the word "as," the solution probably isn't to replace it with another word. It's probably a whole grammatical construction that you're overusing. Try searching out instances of "as" and asking yourself if you could convey the whole idea with a different kind of sentence.
#5 - June 23, 2015, 03:10 PM
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I agree with what others have said. You might try alternative ways to convey the same thoughts without either 'when or as,' if you're looking to change up your sentence constructions. I think that when we find we are relying on a particular word it's because we tend to phrase thoughts the same way. So our problem is more than just the over use of a particular word. I find when I revise that I use the dreaded 'verb-ing' and have to go back and invert or break apart sentences to eliminate that 'ing' echo.

When or as works for me in the first sentence although they do have slightly subtle differences as others have noted above. I didn't think either worked for the second sentence. I didn't feel that the table only became a gulf at the instant the person leaned across it. In my mind the table was a gulf all the time so defining the moment by using 'when/as' felt odd to me. But that's just 'my personal opinion' either is acceptable as far as grammar is concerned.

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#6 - June 23, 2015, 03:36 PM

Good points all around. I agree, it also has to do with sentence structure. So, I went back and in places where I could change the structure of the sentence to remove the as/when, I did. Thanks to all.
#7 - June 24, 2015, 05:01 AM

If anyone is still looking at this. This is where I'm at. Any additional thoughts?

The door swung open.

The doctor entered. “Hello, Officer Jamison, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Dr. John Wallace.”

Leaning over to shake her hand, the dark mahogany table created an ocean between them. He sat across from her, placed the folder down, and opened it to the first page. “I’m sure you must be wondering why you’ve been summoned here,” he said.
#8 - July 04, 2015, 06:20 PM

Or...

When he leaned over to shake her hand, the dark mahogany table created an ocean between them.

He leaned over to shake her hand, and the dark mahogany table created an ocean between them.
#9 - July 04, 2015, 07:44 PM

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You definitely don't want: "Leaning over to shake her hand, the dark mahogany table created an ocean between them." Use one of the two wordings you suggested. In the first version, you have a misplaced modifier. The introductory clause "Leaning over to shake her hand" technically modifies the word "table."

#10 - July 04, 2015, 09:40 PM
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Love these suggestions and it's not even my post.
#11 - July 05, 2015, 06:16 AM

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I agree with Ellen. You don't want the table to lean over and shake her hand.

I like your second version best: He leaned over to shake her hand, and the dark mahogany....
#12 - July 05, 2015, 06:30 AM
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I have a different thought, which is beyond the question asked, so feel free to ignore. For me, comparing a mahogany table to an ocean didn't work. He can reach across and touch her. So, it can't be that big.  An ocean is vast.  So, there is a conflict in my (perhaps too literal) mind with the image of the table and the relation to ocean. The sentence jarred me when reading it.  And, we know mahogany is dark, so for me, there wasn't a need to say mahogany and dark.  I think the stress is on the size of the table overall since you are analogizing it to an ocean?  And therefore a large separation between the two characters?  I toyed around a bit in my head and came up with, for example only: A mahogany table more suited to a king and his entire court separated them. He leaned over and shook her hand.   As an additional way showing the space between them, you could consider the impact on him of having to reach across the table: A mahogany table more suited to a king and his entire court separated them. He leaned over, pushed aside the sting of its carved edge digging into his hips, and shook her hand. 
#13 - July 05, 2015, 07:27 AM
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DebraG,

Definitely a different take. It keeps me thinking of different ways to approach the sentence which is great. Thanks.
#14 - July 08, 2015, 06:50 AM

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Dionna

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Or...

When he leaned over to shake her hand, the dark mahogany table created an ocean between them.

He leaned over to shake her hand, and the dark mahogany table created an ocean between them.

Hi Ed,

I'm sure you've gotten this all cleared up by now, but I am just reading this post, and found your question interesting. I ponder over sentences like this, too. What I try to do now is just say what I mean with as few words as possible. So....

He leaned over the large table to shake her hand.

#16 - December 13, 2015, 03:45 AM

I agree, Dionna. Say things with the fewest words is great advice.
#17 - December 14, 2015, 11:58 AM

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