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Uses of the word 以 in writing


Hello everyone,

I’ve been a Chinesepod member since 2008, I believe, and this is my first forum post. I may do a self-introduction at another time. I’ve studied Chinese for about 9 years now.

Lately, I’ve been puzzled by the word 以 when reading stories and formal documents. I know this word is commonly paired together with other words like 以前 , 以免 , 可以 ,and so forth, but sometimes it’s placed at the beginning or middle of a sentence and it can contain a smorgasbord of meanings. My dictionary provides these possible definitions, which doesn’t necessarily narrow down how to use it:

1.) with; by means of
2.) according to
3.) because of
4.) in order to; so as to
5.) at; on (time)
6.) and; as well as

In all of my years studying Mandarin, this little particle has stumped me and I have never gotten a clear idea of what it’s supposed to mean. I know it must be highly context specific, but even within context it is sometimes difficult to discern the true meaning of the sentence when this particle is used.

Can anyone clarify common and proper usage of this word within Chinese formal writing?




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