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Mandarin

Taking A to be B in Mandarin: 以 A 为 B

Thought bubbles containing A and B, linked by 以 and 为.A lot of grammatical structures have remained consistent in Chinese right through from the Classical language to modern Mandarin. A really common example is the 以 A 为 B structure.

This pops all over the place, and can also be seen in the verb 以为 (yǐwéi) - “to consider (incorrectly)”. It’s quite versatile and very useful to know.

It’s used to express “taking A as B” or “using A as B”, and can use various configurations of nouns and adjectives.

以 [noun A] 为 [noun B]: consider A to be B

Probably the most common use of the structure is to express “to consider A as B” or “to take A to be B”.

Examples:

不少人以高薪为成功的条件。 Bùshǎo rén yǐ gāoxīn wéi chénggōng de tiáojiàn. “Many people consider a high salary to be a condition for success.”

我以感情为生活里最重要的事。 Wǒ yǐ gǎnqíng wéi shēnghuó lǐ zuìzhòng yào de shì. “I consider relationships to be the most important thing in life.”

他以他的工作为傲。 Tā yǐ tā de gōngzuò wéi ào. “He takes pride in his work.” (Literally: “He takes his work to be [a source of] pride.“)

以 [noun A] 为 [noun B]: use A as B

This is a fairly similar use to the one described above, but is more direct in the “A as B” relationship.

Examples:

我没有钱的时候,只能以地毯为床。 Wǒ méiyǒu qián de shíhou , zhǐ néng yǐ dìtǎn wéi chuáng. “When I didn’t have any money, I only had a rug for a bed.”

熟练的士兵知道怎么以他们的环境为武器。 Shúliàn de shìbīng zhīdào zěnme yǐ tāmen de huánjìng wéi wǔqì. “Skilled soldiers know how to use their environment as a weapon.”

今天咱们以「英国历史」為题目。 Jīntiān zánmen yǐ . Yīngguó lìshǐ . wéi tímù. “Let’s take ‘English history’ as a topic today.”

[A] 以 [B] 为最 [adj]: [B] is the most [adj] of [A]

The meaning of this structure is slightly different to those above. It means “among [nouns], _x _is the most [adjective].”

Examples:

我们班以小李的个子为最高。 Wǒmen bān yǐ Xiǎolǐ de gèzi wéi zuì gāo. “Xiaoli is the tallest in our class.”

水果以苹果为最佳。 Shuǐguǒ yǐ píngguǒ wéi zuìjiā. “Apples are the best fruit.”

中国诗歌以李白的诗为最有名。 Zhōngguó shīgē yǐ Lǐ Bái de shī wéi zuì yǒumíng. “Li Bai’s work is the most famous of Chinese poetry.”

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