You may have heard the phrase “as an aside” in casual conversation and wondered why people use it, even at times in a hushed tone. What exactly does it mean, and is it correct?
In informal contexts, it is correct to say “as an aside” when you want to communicate something indirectly or share information you do not intend for others to hear. You can also use this phrase when you want to add something to what you have previously said, specifically if what you are adding is not directly related to your previous comment.
“As an aside” is an English idiom, which means you can’t quite comprehend its meaning based on the individual words. Continue reading to understand what this phrase means and how you can use it correctly in casual contexts.
What Does “As an Aside” Mean?
The phrase “as an aside” means what you will say is indirectly related to the topic you are currently speaking about but still somewhat fits the context of your conversation. It can also indicate that you only intend what you will say for your listener or those nearest you, not an entire group or everyone around you.
“As an aside” is an idiom, which, as we’ve previously said, is an expression that you cannot understand by its independent words but rather we establish by usage, dialect or culture, and context (source).
It is helpful to understand the word “aside” itself before we further break down how you can use this idiomatic phrase. The word “aside” literally means that something or someone is on or to one side (source). It can also refer to a remark that someone makes quietly so that not everyone hears it.
Using Aside as an Adverb or a Noun
“Aside” is an adverb, which you’ll remember is a part of speech that modifies verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs (source). One of the most common ways you will use adverbs is to answer the “how” question. In other words, you are explaining more about how you or someone else is doing something.
For example, you can say that you’ve “moved your plate aside” when you finished your dinner. You are communicating how you’ve moved your plate, and thus “aside” functions as an adverb.
The phrase “as an aside” specifically shows how you are about to say or add information to what you’ve previously said, meaning “as an aside” is an adverbial phrase.
“Aside” can also be a noun, but the meaning is essentially the same in that it is a remark that a person makes, such as in “he added an aside to their conversation, wondering what the others thought about the dessert menu.”
In the context of literature, an aside also refers to when a character addresses the audience directly, intending for you to hear something that other characters in the scene are not supposed to hear or be aware of.
This may be the best way to understand the idiomatic phrase in that you, similar to a character in a play, are adding additional information you either do not mean for others to hear or that adds something indirectly related to the context of your conversation.
Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “As an Aside”?
It is grammatically correct to say “as an aside” in casual conversation or when writing dialogue in storytelling. If you are writing the phrase, you’ll most often need to set it off by commas, either two if you are using the phrase in the middle of your sentence or one after “aside” if using it at the beginning of your sentence.
However, there are times when commas are not necessary. This gets tricky with phrases like “as an aside,” but the best way to know whether or not you should use a comma is to determine if what comes after the phrase is an independent clause.
Remember that an independent clause can stand alone as a complete sentence and has both a subject/noun and a verb.
Ask yourself, can what you are writing after the phrase stand alone as a complete sentence? If it can, you should always enclose the phrase in commas, one before the word and one after. If it cannot, you don’t necessarily need a comma all of the time.
Take a look at these three sentences, each using the phrase “as an aside”:
- As an aside, I asked him how things were going with his girlfriend.
- My father whispered as an aside what time dinner was.
- During dinner, as an aside, I asked if anyone would like to meet for lunch tomorrow.
In the first example, we used the phrase to begin a sentence. This is called an “introductory phrase,” and you will always need to use commas to set off introductory words and phrases (source). An introductory phrase is simply a word or phrase that you can use to provide more information or introduce or connect related ideas.
In the second example, you’ll notice that we did not use commas to set off the phrase. The reason is what comes after the word “aside” is not an independent clause and cannot stand on its own as a complete thought.
The remaining part of the sentence, “what time dinner was,” is a dependent clause and requires more to create a complete sentence. We’ll talk about the difference between clauses and phrases later in this article.
Finally, in the third example, the phrase is essentially an “interrupter,” or a phrase that you can remove from your sentence, but it would still be complete and correct.
Again, you need to surround these phrases with commas since they add information that is not essential and sets apart or interrupts what comes next in your sentence.
How Do You Use “As an Aside”?
Generally, you should use “as an aside” in conversation, not in writing or formal contexts. It is a casual phrase that you can use when you don’t want everyone around you to hear what you are saying, so you would speak in a quiet voice or hushed tone. You can also use it audibly when you simply want to add information or ask an indirectly related question.
Using “as an aside” is simple in conversation because you don’t need to worry about proper punctuation, but you should still be aware of the grammatical construct and rules that govern phrases like this.
Remember that the phrase is adverbial, showing how you are speaking. You also need to be sure that when you are using the phrase, you are doing so within a complete sentence, whether you use it at the beginning or in the middle.
Again, if you use the phrase at the beginning of a sentence, it is an introductory phrase. In general, phrases like this introduce or act as a precursor to the main part of your sentence.
The comma indicates a pause in speaking. It also connects the dependent clause (your introductory phrase) to the independent clause or the main part of your sentence.
If you are using the phrase in speaking to avoid others hearing you, you’ll also want to alter the tone of your voice to allow for your intended listener to hear you without others overhearing.
When Can You Use “As an Aside”?
As we’ve said, you can use “as an aside” in informal conversation when you either want to add something or prevent others from hearing what you are saying. You should not use this phrase in formal contexts. You should only use it in casual circumstances.
The connotation of this phrase is not necessarily a negative one, though it can be. In one context, you might want to prevent another from hearing what you are saying because what you are saying may hurt others’ feelings or might be one of secrecy.
An example might be if you are speaking to a group of coworkers and you want to let a close friend know that you just received a promotion.
You may not wish your other coworkers to hear you. So, when speaking, you might lower the tone of your voice, look toward a single person and say, “As an aside, I wanted to tell you I received the promotion today!”
In other situations, you may want to ask a question or add something to what you are saying. For example, if you are picking up a friend from school and you are in the midst of a conversation but want to remember to find out if she’ll need a ride the next day, you may ask, “As an aside, do you need a ride tomorrow, too?”
In What Context Can You Use “As an Aside”?
The most important thing to remember about the context in which you should use the phrase “as an aside” is that it is better suited for casual conversation and communication.
This phrase is really useful when you want to add something at a particular point in time or in the midst of a conversation.
And, remember that speaking to a single person so that others do not hear is not polite, so unless you know those you are speaking with very well, you should avoid using this phrase and rather take the person aside to speak to them in private.
Using “As an Aside” in a Full Sentence
When writing, using “as an aside” in a full sentence requires proper punctuation. While this phrase is more common in conversation only, using it correctly in writing requires knowledge of the basic comma rules we’ve mentioned above.
Below you’ll find more examples showing you when you should use commas to set off the phrase and when you don’t necessarily need to.
Using a comma with “as an aside” as an introductory phrase:
- As an aside, I was wondering if you prefer dark chocolate or milk chocolate.
- As an aside, please make sure that you let me know what time you’ll need a ride.
Using commas to set off a phrase that interrupts the rest of your sentence:
- We’ll talk more about the lesson but, as an aside, did you turn in your homework?
- I’m going to order dessert for the table but, as an aside, how was your meal?
Using “as an aside” without commas:
- She asked as an aside for the paper I never turned in.
- He whispered as an aside to use his knife since mine fell on the floor.
When Not to Use “As an Aside”
As we’ve stated, you should not use “as an aside” in formal contexts or formal writing. Instead, it is best suited for casual conversation or when you are writing dialogue in a storytelling setting.
Remember, too, that “as an aside” is an idiom, so its meaning is not literal. You may want to use a different phrase if you are not sure your listener will understand the cultural context of the idiom or its figurative meaning.
What Can You Use Instead of “As an Aside”?
Other phrases are similar to “as an aside,” such as “on the other hand,” “by the way,” “in addition,” “furthermore,” “aside from,” and “while we’re on the subject.” These are all interrupting phrases you can use in the middle of a sentence to add indirectly related information.
You should be sure to use a phrase that fits the context as some of these close synonyms are not exactly the same in meaning as “as an aside.” For example, “furthermore” is a little bit different in that you are more likely adding information that is directly related to what you are speaking about and emphasizes your point.
“By the way” and “while we’re on the subject” are both very close synonyms, and you can use them interchangeably with “as an aside” in most contexts. You can also say “incidentally,” which many people use when they want to add more information that is not directly related.
Phrases and Clauses
“As an aside” is a phrase, but it is not a clause. The main difference between phrases and clauses is that a phrase is a group of words that does not contain both a noun and a verb or a subject and predicate. On the other hand, a clause must have a subject and a verb, even if it is not a complete sentence.
There are different types of phrases, and you can think of them as ways to add detail to your sentences. Phrases, though, are not complete thoughts, and you must use them within a complete sentence.
So, while both phrases and clauses convey ideas and add meaning to your writing, only an independent clause is a complete sentence. It contains both a noun/subject and a verb. A dependent clause (or subordinate clause) does not express a complete thought and must be connected to an independent clause.
Let’s take a look at a quick example:
Whenever she speaks to large crowds, she keeps her lucky coin in her pocket.
The bolded section of the sentence is the dependent clause. It does have a noun and a verb, but it cannot stand on its own as a complete thought.
It begins with the adverb “whenever,” which indicates that you’ll need more information to understand the intended meaning. The latter part of the sentence is an independent clause and can stand on its own as a complete sentence. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
If you’d like to learn more about the nuances of sentences and sentence structure, take a look at “Can You Start a Sentence With And?”
Idiomatic phrases can be challenging because you need to be aware of the figurative meaning and how to use them correctly in a cultural context. But as you understand the English language better, you’ll find that many of these phrases are very common in casual conversation, including “as an aside.”
Just remember that you should avoid this phrase in formal contexts and in writing for the most part. However, you can use it among friends when you want to add information or speak so that others do not hear you.