'for example' and 'such as'


Do you think that sometimes 'for example' and 'such as' are interchangeable for the same meaning? Thank you so much as usual and have a good and safe day.


1) Wild flowers such as primroses are becoming rare.

2) Wild flowers, such as primroses, are becoming rare.


3) Wild flowers, for example, primroses are becoming rare.


And if you do not mind, is there a meaning difference between #1 and #2? I think that #2 is wrong here. What do you expert think?


P.S If you do not like examples, please would you explain with your examples? 

edited Jan 19 '13 at 06:53 Hans Contributor

3 answers


The usage guidelines and differences between such as and for example are tricky and seemingly impossible to pin down.  I have used both phrases a lot in academic writing, and have been wracking my brains tonight about this question.  Let me summarize what I have found in two sources, and invite others to respond.


A comma, or not, before such as?


GrammarGirl (http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/like-versus-such-as.aspx) distinguishes between such as as part of a nonrestrictive clause and as part of a restrictive clause, opining that the comma is necessary for nonrestrictive but prohibited for restrictive:


Instrumental music, such as classical and jazz, helps Jessica draw better.

She says that because the above is nonrestrictive, the such as phrase could be deleted and the sentence would still make sense: Instrumental music helps Jessica draw better.  I can follow her argument so far.


Then she gives this example of such as in a restrictive clause:


The clippings in Kristen’s Funny Writing box include topics such as dangling participles, spoonerisms, and eggcorns.


The phrase beginning with such as could not be deleted from the sentence; therefore, no comma.


I am still with her (I guess this particular column was guest-hosted by someone else, a university professor named Geoff Pope) but I have never heard restrictive or nonrestrictive used to describe clauses/sentences that aren't relative.  So I am not sure about the terminology used here at all.  However, the distinction does seem to make sense, doesn't it?


The Pope/GrammarGirl article also points out that writers often overlook this distinction to avoid "bumpy comma crowding". 


It also doesn't comment on whether a comma is necessary after the such as phrase, but the rule seems to be that, in a simple one-clause sentence, if the such as phrase occurs before the verb (within the subject part of the sentence), use a comma after it, and--I think this is obvious--if it occurs after the verb (within the predicate part of the sentence), don't.


The difference between such as and for example


Most of my standard go-to grammar reference books ignore the topic completely, but here is a summary of what I found tonight in Celce-Murcia & Larsen-Freeman's The Grammar Book: An ESL/EFL Teacher's Course, 2nd ed., pp. 526-7:


For example, they say, is a 'conjunctive adverbial', whereas such as is a 'complex preposition'.  Those are pretty hoity-toity linguistic terms, but have a gander at the two example sentences they offer:


We like beaches that have good surf.  For example, we like Hapuna and Rincon.

We like beaches that have good surf, such as Hapuna and Rincon.


The implication is that such as usually introduces a list of nouns within the same sentence and for example is customarily set off in a separate sentence, introducing a clause.


That last sentence has 2 clauses, an independent clause followed by a relative clause that includes the such as phrase.  It is more complicated than the GrammarGirl examples, and so I hesitate to hazard a guess about why the comma is necessary (and I think it is necessary) after surf, but maybe the more-complicated rule is that when a such as phrase follows a restrictive relative clause, a comma must be used before such as?


Celce-Murcia & Larsen-Freeman also say that for example can introduce a list of nouns within the same sentence, but that when used in this way it is "most often set off from the main clause by a dash or a colon":


We like beaches that have good surf--for example, Hapuna and Rincon.

We like beaches that have good surf: Hapuna and Rincon, for example.




So, folks, that is what I have managed to come up with.  I found all kinds of other conflicting advice online and I would certainly like to see others weigh in on this one. 


I know for a fact that I have often read sentences like Wild flowers, for example, primroses, are becoming rare.  This use of for example with all of the commas and in the middle of the sentence sounds wrong to me and so I would tend to agree with the rules I've managed to find.  But I think there's more to it.  

link comment answered Jan 19 '13 at 12:45 Shawn Mooney Expert

There is no difference in meaning between #1 & #2.  I believe that there are arguments for and against the commas, and it could go either way. 


Your third sentence is not grammatically correct.  To use “for example” in this way, the sentence needs to lose the primroses.
Wild flowers, for example, are becoming rare.  


I would not replace “such as” with “for example” in sentences #1 or #2.  They are not quite interchangeable.  

link answered Jan 19 '13 at 07:43 Patty T Grammarly Fellow

Thank you so much as usual and I saw, "I like pets, for example, dogs." And then "for example" should be "such as" here, isn't it? Thank you so much.

HansJan 19 '13 at 07:50

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Some sports, such as football, are dangerous. (nonrestrictive)

Sports such as football are dangerous. (restrictive)_

link comment answered Sep 28 '14 at 18:29 Mark McDowell New member

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