I saw the following passage and am wondering whether "it is with A as with B" is current English. What is it used for? And what does "it" refer to?

It is with learning as with wealth. A few cannot be immensely wealthy, but the many must be poor. One palace, and a thousand cabins—a few “nobles,” and a “numerous rabble,” constitute those societies where there are patented and privileged classes. So it is in learning sacred and common.


In this context the words "It is..." are referring to the big picture(Definition), how the world works at the highest or most general level.

The examples are of small sets -- the rich, the nobles, the sacred -- in contrast to large sets -- the poor, the commoners and the uneducated.

It is a claim made of the inevitability of such a condition, and how seeing it in these examples provides structure to other parts of life.

As a claim, it is useful in describing things, but whether it is true is for you to work out.

  • Is the pattern "It is with A as with B" natural in current English?
    – Apollyon
    Jul 5 '19 at 4:35
  • 1
    @Apollyon Yes, although it would be better to use the full version (it is with learning as it is with wealth) rather than omitting the second it is. An equally natural alternative would be as [it is] with learning, so [it is] with wealth. And it is a dummy pronoun. Jul 5 '19 at 8:40
  • Maybe the paraphrase should be "As [it is] with wealth, so [it is] with learning"? After all, the focus is learning.
    – Apollyon
    Jul 5 '19 at 8:54
  • Yes, that would be more clear. Aug 5 '19 at 16:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.