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Why is 来 used in the following sentence? For some context, this is a line from a text used in the second workbook of the New Practical Chinese Reader series (pg. 93). In the text a teacher is explaining to his students how to use the word '东西'. The student uses it incorrectly, and the teacher says the following:

‘这个句子也不对。因为‘东西’一般不能用来表示人。同学们,要记住,说别人,‘不是东西’ 是骂人的话,不能随便更用’

Why is 来 used?

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  • The two questions seem similar, but they are actually talking about two different functions of 来, so it is not quite a duplicated question. "设了个陷阱 [来] 抓狐狸" is not the same as [用] (陷阱) [来] 抓狸 – Tang Ho Feb 15 at 18:57
  • 「東西」一般不能用來表示人 is an inversion of 一般不能用「東西」來表示人 to emphasise 「東西」 (as evidenced by the quotation marks). Also, the morpheme 來 meaning 'in order to' has not changed its meaning in 用~來. That is to say, any difference in meaning between 用~來 and the stand-alone 來 is due not to 來 but 用. – L Parker Feb 16 at 1:59
  • IMHO, (把)'东西 用来 表示人 paraphrased as -- "using non-conscious inanimate objects to represent humans" -- (like a wood carving of a human); 用('东西') 来 表示人 paraphrased as -- "equating non-conscious inanimate objects as sentient humans" -- (like worshiping an idol of a human) – Wayne Cheah Feb 16 at 2:49
  • I would kindly argue any pragmatic difference arising thereof would be due to the verb 表示. – L Parker Feb 16 at 3:00
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The answer to the question explained the function of 来 as a preposition (in order to; so that) that connect two related verb phrases, but here ' ~ ' can be simply explained as 'use ~ to'; (被)用来 as (be)used to

  1. "(把)'东西'用来 表示人" = "(take) 'things' to be used to indicate human"

  2. "('东西') 表示人" = "use ('things') to indicate human'"

“因为‘东西’一般不能用来表示人” = "because 'things' usually cannot be used to indicate human"

In the text you posted. 东西 (things) is the topic and 不能(被)用来表示人 (cannot be used to indicate human) is the comment

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Why is 来 used?

It's a style thing (and an indication of an older language, I think).

You may choose not to use it:

因为‘东西’一般不能用表示人。

Also, you may write:

因为你一般不能用“东西”来表示人。

来 and 去 are both used in this way as directional indicators, just like in German. (English has largely given up this practice.)

Language makes a lot of shortcuts: if you use something, you must have got it from somewhere.

In this case:

"You cannot take the word 'thing' (东西) from(来) your vocabulary and use (用) it to indicate (表示) a person (人)"

那个东西!

I just read about an African laughing tree when I saw this post.

来回: v. [来来去去] move back and forth

来回:literally: from (and) return

当风吹时,
When the wind blows from,

皮蕊在里面来回滚动,
the pistils inside roll from and back,

当风吹来时,果实随风摇动,皮蕊在里面来回滚动,不断撞击薄脆的外壳,发出类似人类“哈哈”的笑声,因此,当地人称它为“笑树”。

哈哈!

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