Can someone please expound the semantic shift below, step-by-step? Wiktionary is too brusque.

Prefix attached to verbs to form noun phrases, indicating the patient of the verb, similar to a passive participle.

  ―  suǒ  ―  what one uses; what one relies on; means > the reason why > therefore


This is easier than it looks.

As Wikitionary says, 所 is a verbal prefix that reinforces the verb's agentive value. Usually the presence of 所 doesn't change the meaning of the sentence, but it marks a verb used as noun modifier with 的, and suggests that the modified noun is what receives the action Zdic also explains it clearly: "用在动词前,代表接受动作的事物". That's basically the definition of grammatical patient.

As an example:

我知道的事情 the things I know

知道的事情 the things which I know

The meaning of the second example with 所 is essentially the same, and the English translation actually does not differ. But 事情 is now marked as the patient of 知道, the role of 知道的 as a noun modifier is stressed, which you can render in English with an additional relative pronoun (which, that, etc.).

So as a standalone, the construction 所 + V + 的 is often translated as "that which is V", and that is the passive participle Wikitionary talks about.

Now 以 in Chinese is a bit harder to fully understand for new learners, because it doesn't have one single translation in English. According to the context, it can be rendered as "for", "as", "in order to" "to take/use". Once you get very familiar with how 以 is used, you might find a common denominator, close to "to take as".

So if you put those two together 所以 is literally something like: "that which is taken as", which shifts naturally to "therefore" -> "consequently".


I'm not feeling well, [that which is taken as = therefore] I don't want to go out


A simpler answer

所 = place --> (the point something is based on)

以 = with

所以 = with the base on (aforementioned statement)

[(reason) 所以 (action)] --> [(action) with the base on (reason)] ] --> [(reason) therefore (action)]


我沒錢 = I have no money (reason)

所以 with the base on (reason above)

不買車 = not buying car (action)

[我沒錢]所以[不買車] = [reason: 我沒錢] therefore [action: 不買車]


I don't think 所以 originally meant "what one uses".

"originally 㠯=以".

(㠯 <to speak of, by means of>)

所以:the place by means of ....

Modern translations for 所以 might be: so, therefore, the reason, 之所以:the reason why.

consequence: Latin consequentia, abstract noun from present-participle stem of consequi "to follow after," from assimilated form of com "with, together" (see con-) + sequi "to follow"

consequence: what follows with
consequently: as a consequence of

If 以 in 所以, is interpreted as "by means of" then there will be, at some stage, an end state,a consequence. "by means of something achieve some purpose"

所:户 + 斤 (Take an axe to a door or house? Seems violent!! Maybe it just meant: build a house or make a door, settle in a location)

以: Character decomposition 字形分解 [?]:
Component 以 mutants 𠙋㕥
from mouth-speak 㠯 yǐ and
(rem- 口 kǒu) and
person 人 rén
C689 以<㕥㠯> simp 以.
(name- person-mouth 以𠙋㕥 yǐ)

Decomposition notes 字形分解说明 [?]:

人 was added to distinguish 㠯 from 厶.
Originally 㠯, meaning ‘by means of’ or ‘because of’. originally 㠯=以.

(㠯 <to speak of, by means of>)
(- 㠯 yǐ 厶 sī two mouth characters )

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