The word 给gěi

The word 给gěi as a verb means “to give”. The thing with Chinese is that the roles of the words are flexible, like here 给 can also be a preposition, it is used to indicate the recipient or beneficiary of the mentioned action, like “to/ for” in English.

With 给gěi as a verb, the sentence keeps a simple SVOO structure, the same as English.

可以 一 杯 水 吗?
Kěyǐ gěi wǒ yī bēi shuǐ ma ?
Can you give me a glass of water?

了 他 我 的 笔。
gěi le tā wǒ de bǐ.
I gave him my pen.

Now 给gěi as a preposition, the structure is

Sub+给+Target+Verb phrase

给 她 送 了 一 朵 玫瑰 花。
gěi tā sòng le yì duǒ méiguī huā.
I gave her a rose.

我 送 了 一 朵 玫瑰 花 给 她
Wǒ sòng le yì duǒ méiguī huā gěi tā.

我 送 给 她 了 一 朵 玫瑰 花。
Wǒ sòng gěi tā le yì duǒ méiguī huā

Even with the preposition phrase “给她gěi tā” changing places, the sentences are still valid, with “她tā” as the direct recipient of the object“一朵玫瑰花yì duǒ méiguī huā ”, the meaning of 给 is similar with “to”. There are some other verbs that work in the same method, such as 寄jì(mail), 递dì(pass)扔rēng(throw)还huán(return)交jiāo(submit),

Let’s see them in some examples,

我 妈 每 年 给 我   寄 很 多 衣服。
Wǒ mā měi nián gěi wǒ jì hěn duō yīfu
My mom mails me a lot of clothes every year.

这 件 事 交 给 我吧。
Zhè jiàn shì jiāo gěi wǒ ba.
Let me handle this thing.

Sometimes when it is not a direct giving and receiving relation, we can address it as the beneficiary of the action, we can still use 给gěi, the meaning will be similar to “for”, similar verbs are 买mǎi(buy)写xiě(write)读dú(read)

给 你  写 了 一 封 信。
gěi nǐ xiě le yì fēng xìn
I wrote you a letter.

给 你  买 了 一 件 大衣, 你试试!
gěi nǐ mǎi le yí jiàn dàyī ,nǐ shìshi !
I bought a coat for you, try it on!

There are many separable verbs, which are almost all V+O relations, we can also use 给gěi to indicate the recipient/beneficiary. It could be a bit odd, since sometimes the recipient can be inserted inside the verb (between the verb and the object), this is a whole another topic. Check the related article if you need to refresh your memory. Also remember if there are numerals and measure words, we need to locate them inside the verb, such verbs include 洗澡xǐzǎo唱歌chànggē跳舞tiàowǔ做饭zuòfàn.

我们 大家 给 他    唱 一 首 歌。
Wǒmen dàjiā gěi tā chàng yì shǒu gē
Let’s all sing a song for him.


我 妈妈 每天 要 给 全 家 人 做饭。
Wǒ māma měitiān yào gěi quán jiā rén zuò fàn
My mom has to cook for the whole family everyday.

我今天早上给Jordi洗了一次澡,现在它又脏了。
Wǒ jīntiān zǎoshàng gěi Jordi xǐ le yí cì zǎo ,xiànzài tā yòu zāng le
I showered jordi once this morning, now he is dirty again.

Sometimes 给 can transmit an ordering tone,

给 我    站 住!
gěi wǒ zhàn zhù!
Stand right there!

给 我   坐 下!
gěi wǒ zuò xià!
Sit down now!

不要 给 我 找 借口。
Búyào gěi wǒ zhǎo jièkǒu
Don’t try to find me any excuse.

That is what the mom would usually say when the kids are trying to run away from the crime scene, “给我 gěi wǒ” here reinforces the demanding tone.

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