What are the repeatedly used structures in 4-character expressions (e.g. chengyu) and what do they mean?

In today's reading, I encountered the expression 敬而远之. However, I noticed this `x而y之` structure is repeated in many other 4-character expressions (Pleco search `?而?之`):

``````敬而远之

``````

Thus, it seems I should study how such structures work and thereby learn whole families of 4-character expressions at a time.

Question: What are the repeatedly used structures in 4-character expressions (e.g. chengyu) and what do they mean?

I'm seeking a kind of overview of major structures (those that occur in multiple 4-character expressions, like `x而y之` above) for 4-character expressions, and a brief explanation as to how to interpret them. It looks like `x而y之` is an adjective that combines `x` and `y`.

Note that `x而y之` is just one example, and there are others like `千x万y` (see also Chengyu with two numbers).

(Whenever I look up chengyu on the web, I find pages like this and this which give a handful of common but disparate examples, making them very difficult to actually remember.)

• Jul 20, 2020 at 17:25
• I just found others:X 而不 Y. Jul 21, 2020 at 18:46
• – Becky 李蓓
Jul 24, 2020 at 14:21

It seems that there are two types of 成语 represented by the same “structure”.

A而B之 could mean “action + action, done to something (third person pronoun)”.

A而B之 could also mean “adjective + adjective, used to describe something (third person pronoun)”.

Axel Tong answered A而B之 perfectly. I would address some other idiom structures not mentioned in the question

Becky 李蓓 wrote:

Note that x而y之 is just one example, and there are others like 千x万y

1. [(adjective A) + (noun A) + (adjective B) + (noun B)] / Example: 千丝万缕，如狼似虎

3. [adverb A] + [(verb A) + (adverb B) + (verb B)] / Example: 穷追猛打，虚打假闘

4. [(verb A) + (adverb A) + (verb B) + (adverb B)] / Example: 赶尽杀绝，看惯见熟

In the four structures above, the relationship between (A) and (B) are either being similar or being one half of a split-up compound word

Studying the examples about, you can apply the same structure to coin new idiomatic phrases out of the common compound words that contain two characters that have a similar, identical or opposite meaning

Example: