As far as or as long as
Posted by GPP on August 16, 2003
In Reply to: As far as or as long as posted by ESC on August 15, 2003
: : I am teaching English in Japan.
: : But lots of things about English grammar are still annoying me.
: : Let me ask you one thing.
: : Say students do not pay any attention whether or not they fail the exams.
: : Is it OK to say:
: : (a) Students do not get motivated as far as exams go.
: : (b) Students do not get motivated as long as exams go.
: : (c) Students do not study at home as long as they get interested.
: : If both (a) and (b) are correct, what differences do you feel about these two sentences?
: : Thanks in advance.
: a) is understandable but could be clearer. But b & c are not correct. Could you reword what you were trying to say?
: As far as exams go, the students are not motivated. Students are not motivated regarding their exams.
(C) is wrong primarily because the negation was omitted: 'as long as they DON'T get interested'.
None of these three statements are (or 'is'--lots of arguments about whether 'none' is preferably singular or plural) as clear as the initial phrasing "Students do not pay any attention whether or not they fail the exams", but even this is ambiguous. It could mean either "Students do not pay any attention [to my lectures,] whether or not they [may] fail the exams", or it could mean "Students do not pay any attention [to the question of] whether or not they [may] fail the exams".
There's a subtle difference between 'as far as' or 'as long as', versus 'so far as' or 'so long as'. Given that (a) is still a clumsy construction, I would be more inclined to say "Students do not get motivated so far as exams go", rather than 'as'. Or better, "Students do not get motivated insofar as exams go". (M-W2 prefers 'insofar', Fowler 2 prefers 'in so far'.)
Statement (b) involves an incorrect usage of 'as long as'. One could say "Students do not get motivated as long as their minds are on baseball instead of their exams". I think there needs to be an element of time for 'as long as' to work.
Statement (c) can work when the omitted negative is inserted. But here I would change the 'as' to 'so': "Students do not study at home so long as they're unable to get interested", that is, for that period of time.
- Hmm--let me rephrase that GPP 16/August/03