Then, as his final gift to his students, the professor gave them a piece of advice. "Remember," he said to them, "the four of you may be proficient, each in your own subject, but if you don't have the sense to act suitably to the time and circumstance of a situation, you may have to go hungry."

This sentence is from a folk -tale.I want to know whether we can use the meaning "go hungry" for referring to "a situation that causes problems",besides its original meaning "not having enough food to eat".

  • 1
    I would say no, not exactly. If you want a phrase to mean "a situation that causes problems," I would say, "...you may be in hot water." This is a "situation that is problematic," though perhaps not causing problems in and of itself. Apr 5 '17 at 10:51
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    Meanwhile, "you may have to go hungry" in itself is an idiomatic expression and does not only mean "not having enough food to eat." Of course, it borrows its idiomatic meaning from its literal one: one would go hungry without having enough food to eat, but there is also a little bit of the understanding that something had occurred (or not occurred) for you to be in this status of "being hungry." Apr 5 '17 at 10:54
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    It is possible to use language in a more metaphorical or extended way, but you would have to make it clear. In general, if I read go hungry, I am going to think first of literally going without food, and secondarily of being poor and needy. But go hungry doesn't mean "a situation that causes problems".
    – stangdon
    Apr 5 '17 at 12:46

In this story, "to go hungry" is understood by the students to mean simply "to go hungry", it's not an idiom with any other understood meaning.

Not quite comprehending what the great teacher meant, they looked at one another, but said nothing, and after paying their respects to their professor, set forth on their journey home.

The story itself is a fable, and means that your day-to-day needs must be provided for not by advanced knowledge but by common sense, which is the minimum set of sense, knowledge and skills everyone is expected to have.

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