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Whole phrase is: "A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge".

How right understand meaning of this part of phrase: "if it is to keep its edge"?

For russians: Я понимаю, что перевод на русский это "чтобы сохранить свою остроту", но почему не дословно "если есть, то сохранить свою остроту"?

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Because it is an expression - they are sometimes formed to sound great on the cost of their exact meaning.

So yes, you "should" say:

"A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge sharp".

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  • Thank you for answer. I don't understand part "if it is to". What is it mean? – Daniil Aug 16 '17 at 13:56
  • It being the sword. So a sword needs a whetstone (which you use to sharpen knifes/swords back in the day), if the sword wants to keep its sharp edges. If the owner of the sword does not have a whetstone, he cannot sharpen the edges of the sword. – ssn Aug 16 '17 at 17:22

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