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  5. "我可以讲一个故事给你听吗?"


Translation:Can I tell you a story?

November 19, 2017



What purpose does '听' serve in the sentence?


If the grammar at https://resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/Expressing_%22for%22_with_%22gei%22 is any indication, this usage of "給" precedes a target after which a verb or verb phrase must occur to describe what will happen to the target.


That's a construction expressing who benefits from the sentence subject doing the verb. 我给你买药 "I buy medicine for you," that kind of thing. But the subject of 听 isn't 我 so that cannot be the analysis here.

Duolingo did just allow me to translate as "Can I tell a story for you to hear?" If that's really correct, 给 serves to turn 你听 into a clause of purpose. That is a lot like the way "for" functions in English. I'm a little suspicious.


"给" is often translated as "for", and often functions similarly. In this sentence it seems to occupy to some extent the notional terrain of all of "give", "for", and "let", which are all possible translations for it in different contexts.


"May I tell you a story" should be acceptable right?


Is this a natural way to say this in Chinese? It feels very roundabout.


It is natural in Chinese, and there are situations where one would use it.


Why is 听 in this sentence. I know it means "listen," but I don't understand why it is necessary



Sounds like the famous "lend me your ears".


Actually, there is a Chinese version as well: 洗耳恭听 xi2 er3 gong1 ting1, literally clean my ears and listen respectfully, although it is usually used jokingly to mean the speaker will listen to the story, or to what the other person has to say.


Can i tell a story to you?

Isn't this right?


yes, I think that's fine


It sounds a bit less natural to me but should probably still be accepted.


If you use that construction, it is more correct to say "can I tell you a story?"


More common and perhaps more natural-sounding because of the shortness of "you", but arguably not really "more correct" as an English structure, I'd say.

MatchCheng's structure is particularly useful if the recipient requires a longer description, e.g., "He's been telling the story to anyone who'll listen."

Anyone care to translate that example into Chinese?

Edit: There was a good thread following this comment, but Mr.rM's comments have disappeared, along with any responses to them.


I am interested in your example. Here is my attempt at translating "He's been telling the story to anyone who'll listen." 愿意听他的人,他讲了这个故事给他们听了。 Would anyone like to correct that?


I've finally gotten around to finding Mr.rM's deleted comments in my e-mail inbox, now reproduced below, with each numbered section originally a separate post. I don't have a record of what I posted in between.


  • He [has been]₁ [telling the story]₂ [to anyone]₃ [who'll listen]₄.
  • 他 一直₁ 都₃ 给想听的人₄ 讲这故事₂
  • 他 一直₁ 都₃ 讲这故事₂ 给想听的人₄

Not sure if some people would only prefer one of the translations, regarding the word order. ;-) I just don't care as long as it is not an inflexible set phrase in Chinese.


Ah, you're right. I should note that 一直都 is a common collocation. Depending on the translation style, 都 can be omitted even if only “anyone” or 一直 is there.

Back to your translation: Both of them are very casual but still understandable. 不管谁=anyone, while we formally say 任何人/每个人/所有人. 想听的 is then a complement to it. It is also okay to put 人 after 的 in this case. It is wrong to omit 的, unless you change the sentence to ones like:

  • 他一直都,不管谁想听,给人讲这故事。
  • 他一直都给人讲这故事,不管谁想听。
  • 不管谁想听他一直都给人讲这故事。

(Yeah, the commas/pauses are important. 不管谁想听=“no matter who wants to hear”. Therefore the sentences mean that he also tell the story to people who are not interested.)


Yes, you get it. They are literally closer to the English sentence. Better late than never:

  • He [has been]₁ [telling the story]₂ to₃ anyone₄ [who'll listen]₅.

Meaning that he keep doing this for years or just for the moment,

  • 他 一直(都)₁ (在₁) 给₃任何₄想听的人₅ 讲这故事₂。
  • 他 一直(都)₁ (在₁) 讲这故事₂ 给₃任何₄想听的人₅。

Meaning that he has turned to this matter at the moment,

  • 他 (已经₁) 在₁ 给₃任何₄想听的人₅ 讲这故事₂。
  • 他 (已经₁) 在₁ 讲这故事₂ 给₃任何₄想听的人₅。


Ah, I focused on the logic in another discussion and omitted this detail. It does sound more natural with another 听 at the end.


Did you ever hear the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise? I thought not. It's not a story the Jedi would tell you. It's a Sith legend. Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith so powerful and so wise he could use the Force to influence the midichlorians to create Life. He had such a knowledge of the dark side he could even keep the ones he cares about from dying. The only thing he was afraid of was losing his power, which eventually, of course, he did. Unfortunately, he taught his apprentice everything he knew, then his apprentice killed him in his sleep. Ironic... He could save others from death, but not himself.


now do it in 中文


"I can tell you a story, do you want to hear it?" was rejected but I think it's also fine


I think (1) "可以...吗" refers properly to the question of whether the speaker can tell a story, (2) the "给你听" part means "to you", and (3) the "给你听" part is rather incidental, and isn't the fundamental referent of the "吗".

For your sentence, I would suggest a translation of something like "我可以讲一个故事给你听,你想听吗?"


May i tell you a story?


我可不可以给你讲一个故事 is way more fitting for the English translation.


If Duolingo is going to put in a sentence like this, it would make sense to talk about the grammar in the Tips section. There is no way anyone coming at this sentence based on instruction thus far would know what to make of everything after 给。


Isn't a more accurate translation "Can I tell you a story for you to listen?". Otherwise the "给你听" part seems to be left out..


I don't think so. That's awkward, redundant English.

"Tell you [something]" means "tell [something] to you". "给你听" is the translation of "you" in the former structure and "to you" in the latter.

Also, technically I think it would have to be "for you to listen to", to relate "listen" back to the "story", as in English we don't "listen a story", we "listen to a story", (whereas "听故事" is correct in Chinese).


My understanding this sentence is Can I tell you a story, will you listen to it?


Can this words 给你听 be omitted? Te correct English answer/translation does not inlude them too. If some one tells a story there must be someone else listening anyway.


"给你听" is equivalent to the "you" in the English sentence.


Thx, PeaceJoyPancakes


What is the literal translation of it? Is it " Can I tell you a story for you to listen to?"


"Can I tell a story for you to listen to?"


wo keyi gei ni jiang gushi ma, is ok?


The structure is fine. It doesn't clearly refer to a (single) story, so you could say "我可以给你讲一个故事吗", but I don't think it's absolutely necessary to be so particular in this case.


Whats the difference between说 and 讲? Thanks ahead.


Often there's no practical difference, and either can be used. However, there are set phrases and sentence constructions in which only one or the other is used. I would suggest looking this up on the internet, as it's difficult to summarize. Put "说 讲 difference Chinese" into Google (without quotation marks) and you'll get links to a lot of forums where the matter is discussed. Some of the comments are contradictory but you should be able to get a decent sense of it.

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