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a person eating an apple (generated by Leonardo.AI)

他给它吃掉。 (男人给苹果吃掉。)

Normally, we'd interpret this as meaning "he ate it". However, 给 can also be equivalent to the passive 被:

CC-CEDICT 给 (gěi​) to / for / for the benefit of / to give / to allow / to do sth (for sb) / (grammatical equivalent of 被) / (grammatical equivalent of 把) / (sentence intensifier)

So it seems like 他给它吃掉 could also mean "it ate him". This may be relevant in e.g. Jurassic Park fan fiction, where someone is eaten by a dinosaur.

a person being eaten by a dinosaur (generated by Leonardo.AI)

他给它吃掉。 (男人给恐龙吃掉。)

I'm not sure if this is a valid interpretation.

Question: Can 他给它吃掉 mean both "he ate it" and "it ate him"?

6 Answers 6

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  1. grammatical equivalent of 把

This is a rather uncommon usage of 给. It exists only in some dictionaries. Even so there's not a lot of day-to-day usage. "男人给苹果吃掉" itself sounds rather strange compared to "男人苹果吃掉".

  1. grammatical equivalent of 被

This is a common usage. But more often than not the sentence has 了 at the end to represent past tense. E.g., 男人给恐龙吃掉

To your question, if we consider the example of "他给猪吃掉了",it most likely means he was eaten by a pig. On the other hand, "他给猪吃掉" is more incomprehensible than ambiguous, and the audience would likely request your clarification.

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I think the answer is yes. When meaning "He ate it", the 给 is equal to 把, while in "It ate him", the 给 is equal to 被. So what the sentense means depends on the context. By the way, in daily life, we use 他给它吃掉 to represent "He ate it" more.

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You probably could make an ambiguous sentence with 給, but you would definitely have to very carefully choose the words and order to make it easily interpreted in different definitions. I don't think it would work with the use you mentioned, because 我給你⋯⋯ is an extremely clear context of "I towards you did X". So, no. None of the sentences you mentioned can be commonly interpretted outside of the usual "He towards it, performed the action of eating." Your description of reversing the same definition is not standard mandarin at least.

If I was going to try to confuse two meanings of 給, I would start by trying to find a sentence layout that matches up, then add the ambiguous word choice-- most of the uses are very different in sentence placement, I wasn't able to think of an overlap myself but best of luck! (◐‿◑)

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Usually I use "让"to help "给". “他让它给吃了。” This sentence doesn't make people confused. Even without context. But"他给它吃了。 "can mean both of them. It couldn't leave the context. After all, Chinese grammar is looser and more flexible than other languages. It is better not to judge a single sentence, if it may have a mutable meaning.

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  • Google translate translates 他让它给吃了 as "He let it be eaten". Is that correct? Is that a good translation? Or does it simply mean "he ate it"? Jan 17 at 13:18
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A more usual way of saying this is “他把它给吃掉了。”. This way of expressing is more accurate and clear, and is recommended also. You can replace “他” and “它” to make different expressing.

Back to your doubt, “他给它吃掉” can be both meaning you mentioned due to the context.

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  • Google translate gave 他把它给吃掉了 => He ate it. Is that correct / is that a good translation? /// I find it hard to understand the function of 给 in 他把它给吃掉了 - does it mean the same if 给 is omitted, ie 他把它吃掉了? /// "他把它给吃掉了 ≟ 他把它吃掉了 " ? Jan 17 at 13:14
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    Yes, "他把它吃掉了" does mean the same as "他把它给吃掉了". “给” can be omitted. This "给" here before the verb, helps stress the tone. It doesn't change the meaning.
    – Hunter
    Jan 18 at 1:26
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I don't think "他给它吃掉" is a common way of expressing the meaning and I'd consider it more of a spoken language. The first impression is "给" means "让". So in this case it'd be "The man was ate by the apple". However, since this is not grammarly correct, different people might interprets differently.

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