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Here is an issue that came up while I was discussing a grammar exercise with my Chinese language partner. My grammar book has an exercise where the solution is "我被他当做(了)自己的儿子。" My language partner said that 他 in this sentence refers to the speaker's 干爹 gāndiē, which some dictionaries translate as "godfather". Some dictionaries translate both 干爹 gāndiē and 教父 jiàofù as "godfather". However, MDBG translates 干爹 as "adoptive father (traditional adoption, i.e. without legal ramifications)".

Is it correct that the person in the sentence "我被他当做(了)自己的儿子。" can only be someone's 干爹?

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  • 为什么任何一个人不能把任何别的人当做自己的儿子呢? There even have been reports of cases of people considering themselves as their sons, 甚至有报道说有某些人把自己当做自己的儿子。
    – user6065
    Jul 26 '16 at 23:23
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    Your question is not clear and lacks contexts. 我被他当做(了)自己的儿子。 just means I'm regarded/treated as his own son, while he doesn't have to be 干爹, godfather, adoptive father, and so on.
    – user4072
    Jul 27 '16 at 1:27
  • @songyuanyao Surely, I'm regarded/treated as his own son is not the same thing as I'm regarded/treated *by him* as his own son?
    – Tsundoku
    Jul 27 '16 at 13:30
  • @ChristopheStrobbe Ohh, it should be I'm regarded/treated by him as his own son.
    – user4072
    Jul 27 '16 at 15:00
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It is common to say "godfather" when referring to an elder man who is influential to someone's life and treated as the person's father, but in a non-Christian country like China, simply translating "godfather" to 教父(literally "religious father") is quite improper, if the person ("他" in the sentence) is not from a Christian country or is not a Christian believer. If this is the situation in the context, the elder person ("我") can only be the younger person's ("他") "干爹" instead of "教父".

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教父 refers to the fathers in the churches, which is widely used in religious setting.

In your sentence "我被他当做(了)自己的儿子。", it means Godfather - someone who is influential to you through providing support (in all aspects); someone who plays a vital role in your life. It doesn't need to be legalized (which is supported by legal documents), it could be only by the word of mouth.

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干爹 refers to someone who treats the speaker as his own child and provides as much help, love, carefulness, and even money as he can.

教父 is usually used in religious relation.

In this sentence, I think the speaker is only saying that this guy treated him as well as his father did, and the guy is not necessary to be the speaker's 干爹.

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教父 is a 100% foreign word, translating from godfather. 教 means religion or religious, and 父 for father. 教父 means the a man who serves as sponsor for a child at baptism (copied from Dictionary.com Unabridged, 2016), or the leader of a criminal group, especially a mafia family (copied from Cambridge English–Chinese (Simplified) Dictionary). 干爹 is not that scary, just
adoptive father (traditional adoption, i.e. without legal ramifications) (copied from MDBG). In your case the choice of word is absolute 干爹 but 0% 教父. You mentioned that some dictionaries translate both 干爹 as godfather, which is at the first sight surprising but reasonable after a thought, since that 干爹 could also mean a mafia guy much older than of the 干儿子, who is another mafia guy. Hence it is logical to translate it into godfather. However, when 干爹 is translated as godfather its meaning is related with the mafia, and 教父 has no interpretations for adoptive father. Clarification of the two words is shown below, among which only b.2. is appropriate for the context.

a. 教父

  1. A man who serves as sponsor for a child at baptism (copied from Dictionary.com Unabridged, 2016).
  2. The leader of a criminal group, especially a mafia family (copied from Cambridge English–Chinese (Simplified) Dictionary).

b. 干爹

  1. Adoptive father (traditional adoption, i.e. without legal ramifications) (copied from MDBG).
  2. A mafia guy much older than of his 干儿子, who is another mafia guy, but it is not about the adoptive and the relationship between them would usually not very close as between real adoptive family. They even don't live together. More about office politics, where you try to entertain your boss.
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NONE OF THOSE.

The sentence carry the exact meaning as in English "He treat me like his son". So it doesn't automatically carry neither of the say titles.

You cannot assume those title without first confirm with the speaker.

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