I came across this phrase but I cannot really see the function or point of the 2 '以‘。 Must be old Chinese.

授人以鱼不如授人以渔。 (Translated maybe: "Knowledge is the best charity.")

What are the 2 '以‘ doing here please?

  • 1
    baike: It's better to teach a man fishing than to give him fish. 授某人以某事 give/teach so. sth.
    – user6065
    Aug 21, 2016 at 23:03
  • look up 以 in dictionaries, e.g. "汉语水平考试词典",[义4]表示给与等意义(用在动词后(used after a verb to indicate "give" etc.):借~|致~|六乘~三是十八|给劳动模范~表扬
    – user6065
    Aug 21, 2016 at 23:19
  • 谢谢。你的意思是这样‘授。。。以。。。‘,‘授。。。以。。。‘在一起合作??
    – Gangosa
    Aug 22, 2016 at 0:28
  • ??? A 不如 B,A not equal to,not as good as,inferior to B,B would be better than A
    – user6065
    Aug 22, 2016 at 2:29
  • I understand 不如 quite well. My question is, 'What is 以 doing here? I cannot find 授以 as a word, but you say 以 indicates 'give'. Are you saying ‘授’ and '以‘ are in combination?授人以鱼 is ‘give a man give a fish' is that your meaning? For an old use of 以 I find:文言连词,与“而”用法相同:梦寐~求。
    – Gangosa
    Aug 22, 2016 at 3:16

2 Answers 2


means "with" here

[授人(give people)] [ (with)] [鱼 (fish)] [不如 (not as good as)] [授人 (teach people)] [ (with) ] [渔 (lessons of fishing)]

  • 授 can mean "to give" or " to teach"
  • 鱼 is noun for "fish"
  • 渔 is verb for "to fish"

授人以鱼不如授人以渔 = " It is better to teach someone to fish than give someone fish. "

  • '以 is 'with'?? How do you figure that? Where did you get that from?
    – Gangosa
    Aug 22, 2016 at 3:04
  • cantonese.sheik.co.uk/dictionary/characters/461 definition 4
    – Tang Ho
    Aug 22, 2016 at 3:10
  • Example: 待人誠,(treat people with sincerity); 仁治天下 ( govern the world with kindness) ; 文會友 (make friends with written works) ; 武力反抗 ( resist with force)
    – Tang Ho
    Aug 22, 2016 at 3:22
  • Thanks, that is very interesting! And thanks for the link, I'd never heard of that dictionary! I don't think I would use 'with' each time, but the idea is great! But you would not translate '授人以鱼‘ as 'give person with fish' I think!
    – Gangosa
    Aug 22, 2016 at 10:38
  • How about " donate with fish"? similar to " donate with your own money." "with" here basically means " using"
    – Tang Ho
    Aug 22, 2016 at 11:40

i guess the sentence "授人以魚不如授人以漁" is translated, pretending in the style of literary chinese, from the quote

"give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.
 teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime"

which is derived from anne isabella's writing; here's the link to the investigation:


imo, it's marginally acceptable. the original quote could be translated without 以, e.g.:


added another translation:


have fun :)

added info:

What if I rewrite "授人以鱼不如授人以渔“ as "把鱼授人不如把渔教人“? 
It is not as poetic, but is it the same or completely wrong?
If acceptable, we have 以 is 把。

把魚授人 is OK; but 把漁教人, imo, is unacceptable. the least change of it is


as i said before in another comment, that with 10 characters only, 3 of them (魚, 如, 漁) have similar pronunciation is not good, better to avoid it.

in literary chinese, "以" has numerous usages. let's use 教人以漁 as an example:

if you keep the sequence, it could be interpreted as

teaching (教) someone (人) to fish (漁)

以 serves the purpose of make it 4 letters long; however, it's not possible to omit 以, "教人漁" is odd.

next, if you change the sequence to 以漁教人, it could be interpreted as

using (以) fishing techniques (漁) to teach (教) people (人)

that, 以 has the meaning of 用. both of them are correct.

  • Basically, 以 is there to make a 4 character couplet, favoured by Chinese writers, is that what you are saying?
    – Gangosa
    Aug 22, 2016 at 3:06
  • if you start by "授人", it's yes, you need "以" to make it to 4 characters long. cause "授人魚" is odd / wrong, in literary chinese. Aug 22, 2016 at 3:10
  • Since 授之魚未若教之漁 is not a poem, I would say it is a correctly constructed phrase in classical writing style. I would go further and write: "授魚不如教漁"
    – Tang Ho
    Aug 22, 2016 at 3:39
  • well, the main reason that i use 未若 is: 魚 sounds similar to 如, with such few characters, 3 of them with alike pronunciation is, erhhh, better to avoid this situation. "授魚" & "教漁" is odd, the "之" cannot be omitted here. try again :) Aug 22, 2016 at 3:48
  • What if I rewrite "授人以鱼不如授人以渔“ as "把鱼授人不如把渔教人“? It is not as poetic, but is it the same or completely wrong? If acceptable, we have 以 is 把。
    – Gangosa
    Aug 22, 2016 at 5:24

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