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used to 以往 similarity


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I have this question:


中国经济以往都是什么样的发展模式? I see that 以往 is often given as 'formerly, in the past'.


Habitual past actions can be expressed in English with 'used to'. I would like to translate it: China's economy used to use what kind of expansion method?


以 can be 'use' and '往‘ can be 'to' in English, so that ‘used to' and '以往’ seem to be one and the same expression. Is this just a coincidence? 'used to' is a strange expression.


Or is the Chinese sense of '以往‘ more just 'use(d) in the past', '往‘ having the meaning 'past', not 'to' and 'used to' just fits conveniently?






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I think your understanding of the term "used to" is flawed if you think the "used" means the same thing as 用 (I assume this is the sense of 以 you are referring to when you say it can be "use"). A quick etymology search on the English shows it was once just "use to", where the link between "use" and "usual" and by extension "usually" or "habitually" is less of a mystery.


Compare 以前 and 以往. Do you translate 以前 as "used before"? (No, you don't, I hope.) You could translate 以前 and 以往 both as "used to", but not because of some imagined one-to-one mapping between the Chinese characters and the English words.

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I got this sentence, which seems to refer to the future:



He doesn't like exercise, if he remains like this for a long time, he will become very unhealthy.



长此以往 = long (time) (like) this 以往

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Trying to think of a word in English that also does this... Perhaps "ever" is an okay analogy since it can refer to the past and/or the future.


"I am fatter than ever (before)."


"If you ever feel uncomfortable (in the future), let me know."

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Maybe, a few centuries ago, we could have done this in English too. It seems the 'past-tenseness' of 'used to' derives from a wrong interpretation of 'use to'  as 'use d to', basically a speech impediment, a slip of the tongue betwixt t and d. Nowadays it can only be used (that word again!) to refer to customary practice in the past.

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I am with 陳德聰 on this one.  In fact, if I recall correctly, there is a forum regular who is doing a graduate paper on a highly related subject.


Languages usually or always have a link between their spatial and temporal mapping; however, there is often some inconsistency.  In English, a phrase like "those heroes living before us" is a clear reference to the past, because even without tense marking, "before" indicates past time.  Even so, a phrase like "those challenges that lie before us" is a reference to future time, because here, "before" retains some of its spatial orientation .  In 長此以往, I think we are seeing a similar phenomenon.


The character 往, when used temporally, has a past connotation, as in 往往 ("would usually"); but used spatially, the connotation changes, as in 前往 ("head (toward)").  In 長此以往, the 往 simply retains more of the spatial connotation and means something like "heading like this for long" and thus indirectly indicates future time.


Not to mention 以 has a million meanings!



I personally try scrupulously to differentiate between meanings, likely translation equivalents, and memory hooks.  If we stick to "meaning," the character 以 pretty consistently means "taking or using something for a particular purpose."  Since this is a pretty basic function, English has many, many different equivalents.  What is really  very tricky about 以 is the grammar it has inherited from Old Chinese.


Sometimes what follows 以 is its complement/object; but sometimes there is an implied pronoun complement/object and what explicitly follows is simply an adverb.  An example of the first usage is 以此类推 ("and so on" or "taking this to analogize further").  An example of the second usage are compounds like 以前 ("before" as an adverb or "taking that as a reference point and then before").  This latter usage became so common that the two separate words fused, and now they can be used even at the beginning of a sentence with no clear antecedent at all.


In the phrase under discussion, I think that the literal meaning of 長此以往 is something like "going onward (往) for long (長) and taking this (此) as the rule/basis (以)."




 It seems the 'past-tenseness' of 'used to' derives from a wrong interpretation of 'use to'  as 'use d to', basically a speech impediment, a slip of the tongue betwixt t and d. Nowadays it can only be used (that word again!) to refer to customary practice in the past.


I think that what happened is that the simple present in English works well enough as a habitual tense (e.g., I jog in warm weather), but the simple past does not (e.g., I jogged in the rain).  This means that using "use to" as a present habitual was not necessary, but using it in the past filled a perceived void in expression.  The phrase "used to" was than grammaticalized, resulting in a reduced pronunciation.  Such changes in pronunciation are common when words become grammaticalized and lose there original literal meaning.  Compare the possible pronunciations of "going to the store" and "gonna call the store."  The reduced pronunciation is possible (and usual in my speech) only in the second phrase, where it has become a mere indicator of future intention and has lost its spatial meaning. 

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