It seems to be increasingly common for students, and others, to use ‘as such’ as a replacement for ‘therefore’. However, if you think ‘as such’ and ‘therefore’ have the same meaning and are thus interchangeable, read on. ‘Therefore’ is a conjunction (a part of speech that joins words, phrases, clauses or sentences) that, according to the Macquarie Dictionary, means ‘in consequence of that’, ‘as a result’ or ‘consequently’. ‘As such’ is a phrase that includes a conjunction (‘as’) and a pronoun (‘such’) so has a different grammatical function.
The Macquarie Dictionary defines ‘as such’ to mean ‘as being what is indicated’, ‘in that capacity’ or ‘in itself or themselves’. Because ‘such’ in the phrase ‘as such’ acts as a pronoun, it can only be used in the place of an antecedent noun—that is, something already mentioned that ‘such’ refers to. And that noun that it stands for must be clear to the reader.
Confused? You can test for whether ‘as such’ makes grammatical sense by asking ‘As what?’ to see whether there is an antecedent noun or noun phrase that can give the answer. For ‘therefore’, see whether it makes sense to use ‘as a result’ instead.
Rex was leader of the pack and, as such (as what? as leader of the pack), expected obedience from the other dogs. (No problem here.)
Rex was leader of the pack and, therefore (as a result), expected obedience from the other dogs. (No problem here either.)
Lemons contain citric acid and, therefore (as a result), are very sour. (Also no problem.)
So far so good, but replacing ‘therefore’ with ‘as such’ in this sentence causes a problem.
Lemons contain citric acid and, as such (as what? this can’t be answered with a noun), are very sour. (Problem! There is no antecedent noun for ‘such’.)
Cats are curious and, as such (as what? this can’t be answered with a noun.), can find themselves in predicaments. (Problem!)
Cats are curious animals and, as such (as what? as curious animals), can find themselves in predicaments. (No problem.)
Updated 24 May 2023
Ellen McRae, PhD, AE (IPEd), MNZSTI
Senior Managing Editor