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Can someone please clarify how and when 做 is used to mean "to be" e.g.

不愿做奴隶人们

I am familiar with 做 meaning "to do" or "to make", and I would expect that if I was saying "I am a slave", “我是一个奴隶“ would be preferable to “我做一个奴隶“

Why is 做 used in the first instance?

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In my short experience with chinese, I've seen 做 used as to do in terms of work or activity, so maybe slavery is considered as such, and then, instead of being a slave, in chinese you say do slavery (as an activity) –  Petruza Feb 15 '12 at 13:30
    
en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E5%81%9A I think this wiktionary page can explain something~ 做: 1. work, make; 2. act –  coolcfan Feb 16 '12 at 3:53

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

"做" has a meaning of "充当,担任" (serves as, work as) (from 现代汉语词典 Modern Chinese Dictionary). It is different from "是" (to be).

The nuance of English and Chinese here is a little different. In Chinese, we don't say "I don't want to be [a slave]" (我不愿是[奴隶]). It is always "I don't want to serve as (become, etc.) a slave" (我不愿做(成为)奴隶).

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做 also means '(to) do' in 不愿意做奴隶的人们, you can try to translate it like this: the folks who doesn't want to do a slaver('s job). more examples: 我长大之后要做医生 I want to [be a doctor]/[do a doctor's job] when I grow up. 做 means some kind of action, while 是 means it's a state.

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In this context, 做 means "to function as." 不愿做奴隶人们 means, "I don't want to function as (do the role of) a slave."

The idiomatic English expression would be "I don't want to BE a slave."

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