In English, we can say "He bought something to eat," where "to eat" functions like an adjective to "something." I'm wondering whether in Classical Chinese, "以 V 之" shares this function.
I'd appreciate your help.
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in classical chinese, the structure “以” + one character + “之” could be interpreted in multiple ways.
in the analects (論語), chapter 為政:
confucius said (子曰): “the book of odes” (詩三百), in one verse, (一言) for (以) summarising (蔽) it (之) ; [which] is (曰): think (思) without (無) depravation (邪)
that, “it” referred back to “the book of odes”
again in the analects (論語), chapter 里仁:
子曰・. . . ・好仁者・無以尚之
confucius said (子曰): “. . ., those who (者) preferred (好) virtue (仁), nothing (無) could be (以) appended to (尚) [his/her goodness] (之)
i would interpret like this, others might disagree :)
in the book “稽神錄”, volume 3:
. . . 頃之・其女病・即生釘棺中・流之於江・至金山・有漁人見而異之・引之至岸・開視之・見女子猶活・因取置漁舍中・多得鰻鯬魚以食之・久之病愈・遂為漁人之妻・至今尚無恙
many times (多), catching (得) eels (鰻鯬魚) for (以) feeding (食 —> 餵食) her (之)
or, repeatedly (多), using (得) eels (鰻鯬魚) to (以) feed (食 —> 餵食) her (之)
in which, her (之) is referred to the sick girl (女病) whom is put into a coffin alive (生釘棺中), dropped into the river (流之於江), and saved by the fisherman.
treat “食” as “eat” in the above verses is, incorrect.
have fun :)
Pardon me for answering a question that was posted half a year ago, but I do feel the need to supplement by just a bit.
1. Use of the causative (使動用法)
In the example 一言以蔽之, the verb 蔽 'to cover; to summarise' is used as-is.
But in 多得鰻黧魚以食之, the verb 食 'to eat' is used as if it meant 使食*, or 'to make eat; to feed'. This is the causative use of a verb in classical Chinese. Other examples include:
2. 以+(N) and inversion (倒裝)
The noun is usually implied and omitted (only because it is understood) after 以. In the asker's example, if the eel that the fisherman uses to feed the girl were not omitted, the sentence would become 以鰻黧魚食之.
The reason 以+V+之 is observed post-nominally (N+以+V+之) is inversion. Examples include:
'[The superior man] must show entire self-devotion and sincerity to attain it, and by pride and extravagance he will fail of it.' (transl. James Legge)
'The superior man in everything considers righteousness to be essential. He performs it according to the rules of propriety. He brings it forth in humility. He completes it with sincerity.' (transl. James Legge)
They mean just the same as 以忠信得之, 以驕泰失之, 以禮行之, 以孫出之, and 以信成之 respectively. They are 'inverted' relative to the modern Chinese speaker who would normally be more comfortable with 以+N+V+之 (to V it with N) than N+以+V+之. Nevertheless, a common justification for inversion is to emphasise the instrument (N) before the purpose (V+之) of the act.