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我可以从你借钱吗?
Can I borrow money from you?

At some point in our language learning journey, we learn that 从[person] is considered a grammar error in Chinese (despite the equivalent not being a grammar error in English), and we have to change it to 从[place]:

我可以从你那儿借钱吗?
Can I borrow money from you there?

I'm wondering if there's any justification to this, beyond "that's just how it is" or "some stuffy linguist said so".

Question: Why must we say 我可以从你那儿借钱吗? instead of just 我可以从你借钱吗?

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  • Not a full answer, but an observation: It's tempting to use 從 (从) in Chinese as we would use "from" in English, but though there's a lot of overlap, they are clearly not identical. In Chinese, for these purposes, a person is not a place (and much less a time). Even if something were to issue from a person's body, we would (at least I would) generally say something like 從他身體(上).
    – Brian Tung
    May 17 at 17:14

4 Answers 4

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Why must we say 我可以从你那儿借钱吗? instead of just 我可以从你借钱吗

  • 从 somewhere 借钱 --> borrow from somewhere

  • 向 someone 借钱 --> borrow from someone

你那儿 (your place) is somewhere, so we use 从 (I got the borrowed money from your place)

你(you) is someone, so we use 向 instead of 从 (I make a loan request to you)

Similarly:

  • 從銀行那裡借钱 (O) (銀行那裡 is somewhere)

  • 向銀行借钱 (O) (銀行 is someone)

  • 從你借钱 (X) (你 is someone)

  • 從銀行借钱 (O) (here, 銀行 referred to as somewhere the bank is located, not the bank itself as a company)

Notice:

In the sentence '我可以从你那儿借钱吗?' the one who lends you the money might not be the person you are talking to, he might just be an employee there in the bank. Meanwhile, 你 is the one who lends out the money in 我可向你借钱吗

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  • While "向银行借钱" gives Google search 686,000 results, "从银行借钱" gives 438,000. I looked through the sources, they are both credible and quite formal.
    – lilysirius
    May 14 at 0:22
  • 银行 in 向银行借钱 refers to the bank itself; "从银行借钱" actually means '银行那裡' referring to the place where the bank is located
    – Tang Ho
    May 14 at 0:26
  • I agree, but this means that is particular form should best be accepted as correct.
    – lilysirius
    May 14 at 0:27
  • 从银行借钱 is fine because 银行 can refer to as " a company(someone)" or "a place (somewhere)" ; But 你 cannot be referred to as a place
    – Tang Ho
    May 14 at 0:32
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    I’m not saying the case of 银行 can be generalized to 你. What I propose to be accepted as correct is 从银行借钱, which you considered incorrect in your original answer.
    – lilysirius
    May 14 at 0:35
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If you meant to ask "Can I borrow money from you?", the translation should be "我可以**向(和)**你借錢嗎?". The sentence "我可以从你那儿借錢吗?" is fine if your friend works for a lending company, which explains the phrase "从你那儿" (from the place you related to)

For private borrowing/lending, the sentence "我可以**向(和)**你借錢嗎?" is usually used. For formal (legal binding) borrowing/lending through a middleman (your friend), "我可以从你那儿借錢吗?" is more appropriate.

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从 as a preposition can be placed before a place, position, point of time, which means from. In the sentence 从你那儿借钱,你那儿 can be seen as a place, so it works. In spoken Chinese, we normally use 找 + somebody +借钱 instead. Two example: 我们找刘老师借钱。 We will borrow money from teacher Liu. 我们找她借钱。 We are going to borrow money from her.

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You can just say:

你可以借点钱给我吗?
Can you lend me some money?

I can't understand how 向 ,usually meaning 'to' suddenly undergoes a reversal to mean 'from'. That's very hard to explain.

我们要向雷锋学习。
我可以向你借钱吗?

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