I read this sentence in the book 游子吟:


I'm unclear about what "以" and "为" are doing here. I Googled to see if "以...为" is a common construct; this page says that you can say "以 A 为 B", which means "use/take A as B".

Assuming this sentence is using the same construct, then A would be 人们的主观意志 ("man's subjective will") and B is "转移", right? However, the page I linked to seems to indicate that A and B must be nouns. I looked up "转移" and the main definitions are almost all verbs. Google Translate tells me that it can also mean "metastasis", but that's a medical term, so I'm not sure if that's the correct translation.

My current best attempt at a translation is:

The existence of God is an objective fact, which we can't use man's subjective will to change.

Is this sentence using "以...为"? If so, am I correctly identifying A and B? And if so, does that mean B can also be a verb? Or is my understanding completely off?

  • 1
    The meaning of that sentense is (not translating word by word): God exists, and that's the truth. The truth doesn't change even if people don't believe it.
    – Shawn
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 17:21

4 Answers 4


I think “为” is misused here. It could be clearer if remove 为 or replace it with "而". The meaning is just what @AurusHuang provided.

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    I second that this sentence is ill-formed.
    – Ma Ming
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 2:01
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    "以人的主观意志为转移" has become an idiom, commonly seen in the translated works of dialectical materialism. We can't say it's ill-formed today.
    – Stan
    Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 6:27
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    Whether it becomes an idiom or not, it doesn't fix the fact that "为" is misused here. When we try to explain the meaning of the sentence, it would be much better by removing the "为" to understand the meaning.
    – thinwa
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 4:35

I have a slightly different version of translation:

The existence of God is objective, which can't be changed by people's will.

Although “以……为” has existed in Chinese language for milleniums, its meaning differs as the language evolves. Specifically, in your example, “以A为B” can be explained as "B happens for the reason of A". However, this is quite a unique usage that doesn't coincide the common rule. Most of the time, this structure means "regard A as B" or "see A as B".


Here 以A为B is to be taken as "to do B by means of A". (I take 为 to be the same as in 为了 here)

And I think you translated it just fine.


about the usage of 以﹒為﹒, have a look of 國語辭典 (in traditional chinese)

the basic is 以 a 為 b (^以.為), e.g.: 以退為進

roughly: by means of (以) retreat (退), for the purpose of (為) promotion (進).

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