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Why is 之 used in this sentence? 忍耐是幸福之门的一把钥匙. Cant it just as easily be substituted with 的? Please help me understand. Thanks.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

之 and 的 are essentially synonyms for different contexts.

之 is mostly used in set phrases, idioms, proverbs, poems, etc. (Also math with percents and such: 百分**百 100 points out of 100. )

的 is more fit for colloquial contexts.

Since 忍耐是幸福之门的一把钥匙 "Patience is the key to the door of happiness" is a phrase, it is fit to use 之.

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Ok i think i understand. Thank you – rabbid Nov 13 '13 at 16:22
For context, in earlier periods of the language "之" was the only way to say "的" so in the modern language 之 has a more formal or poetic usage. It's like how "thou" in English has a special connotation that is slightly different from how it was actually used in Middle English – 無色受想行識 Nov 14 '13 at 18:56

Another reason is to avoid using the same word again and again in the sentence. To make it easier to read and understand, in sentences where you get related 的, this adds variety.

For instance:


is easier to understand than:

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also a good point! – Growler Nov 13 '13 at 16:30

usually, you may translate x之y to "y of x". Not applicable in ancient Chinese.

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Could you please elaborate on why it is not applicable on ancient Chinese, and give an example? – congusbongus Nov 15 '13 at 4:48
This is only part of an answer. Please improve your answer by providing more information. Low quality answers may be removed. – xiaohouzi79 Nov 19 '13 at 23:59
in ancient Chinese, 之 has multiple meanings. can be a pronoun, it, for example. – Allen St.Clair Nov 27 '13 at 15:06

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