vassal <to><of>

ichfrage

Senior Member
Chinese
I checked the dictionary and found both of the combination.

1. To turn country A into a vassal of country B
2. Country A serves as a vassal to the country B

My guess the two combination has no difference, am I correct?

By the way, in terms of pronunciation, for a Chinese it is difficult to tell vassal from vessel.

Thanks.
 
  • manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    1. To turn country A into a vassal of country B
    2. Country A serves as a vassal to the country B

    My guess the two combination has no difference, am I correct?
    Well, both sentences describe the same relationship between country A and B, but they do express a bit of a difference.

    If you say "country A is a vassal of country B" it just tells us that country B controls A, but if you say "A serves as a vassal to B" it conveys more the idea that A is doing so freely for the benefit of B.

    You can always use vassal of, but vassal to would sound wrong in sentence 1 (at least to my non-native ear!)

    This is just my feeling as a non-native speaker - wait for statements from other members! I tried to confirm my feeling on the net, but my preferred collocation dictionaries don't have the word vassal, I'm afraid.
    I only found one sentence that supports me in my feeling:
    (from Collins):
    A great vassal was in vassalage to a king and a rear vassal to a great vassal
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I don't think there is much of a difference. OED has examples of both. However, like manfy, I think there probably is a difference in usage. When you are just describing a state, perhaps as a noun phrase forming the subject of a verb or the object of a preposition (your sentence 1), or using the verb "be", then use "of". If you are describing an action, then "to" might might be better. "Of" is more common.

    By the way, in terms of pronunciation, for a Chinese it is difficult to tell vassal from vessel.
    The first syllable is stressed in both words, so the vowel has its proper sound. It is the same difference as between "mass" and "mess" or "vat" and "vet".
     
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