Comparing "gei" and "wei"

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Both 给 and 为 can mean "for." They seem to be arbitrarily assigned to different verbs, and to make matters worse, some verbs (but not all!) can use either one. There are a few principles you can use to keep them straight, but also a few exceptions you need to memorize. As always, lots of examples help!

The Core Meaning of 给

As you know, 给 is also a verb meaning "to give." As such, 给 is often used with verbs to express an action done out of kindness or friendship. Think of all the things a mother does for a child, or a generous friend does for her bestie. These would use 给.


Subj. + 给 + Recipient + [Verb Phrase]


  • 一双 筷子。 Qǐng gěi yī shuāng kuàizi.Please get me a pair of chopsticks.
  • 下 飞机 以后,我 电话。 Xià fēijī yǐhòu, wǒ gěi diànhuà.After getting off the plane, I'll give you a call.
  • 你 别 忘 了 邮件。 Nǐ bié wàng le gěihuí yóujiàn.Don't forget to reply to my email.
  • 同事 介绍 了 公司 的 情况。 Tóngshì gěijièshào le gōngsī de qíngkuàng.My coworker explained the company's situation to me.
  • 这 件 事 是 你 做 得 不 对, 道歉Zhè jiàn shì shì nǐ zuò de bù duì, gěidàoqiàn.What you did was wrong. Apologize to him.
  • 老板 了 很 多 建议。 Lǎobǎn gěi le hěn duō jiànyì.The boss gave me a lot of suggestions.
  • 上海 留下 了 很 深 的 印象。 Shànghǎi gěiliúxià le hěn shēn de yìnxiàng.Shanghai left a deep impression on me.

The Core Meaning of 为

The word 为 automatically feels more formal than 给, due to its association with classical Chinese. Besides being more formal, it is also often associated with obligatory actions or responsibilities. The typical example of this is "to work for Company A": 为A公司工作.

One other common usage of 为 is for uncontrollable emotional reactions that result from relationships with other people. These reactions aren't really done out of kindness; they're spontaneous and not a result of a conscious choice.


为 + Person + Verb / Adj.


  • 我 现在 谷歌 公司 工作Wǒ xiànzài wèi Gǔgē gōngsī gōngzuò.I currently work for Google.
  • 国家 过 贡献 吗 ? wèi guójiā zuò guò gòngxiàn ma?Have you made a contribution to our country?
  • 我 真的 高兴Wǒ zhēnde wèigāoxìng.I'm truly happy for you.
  • 父母 孩子 付出 了 很 多。 Fùmǔ wèi háizi fùchū le hěn duō.The parents did a lot for their child.
  • 父母 管 孩子 总是 说 是 孩子 Fùmǔ guǎn háizi zǒngshì shuō shì wèi háizi hǎo.When parents micro-manage their kids, they always say it's for their children's own good.
  • 我们 都 是 成年人 了,应该 自己 的 行为 负责Wǒmen dōu shì chéngniánrén le, yīnggāi wèi zìjǐ de xíngwéi fùzé.We've all adults now, and ought to be responsible for our own actions.
  • 政府 公司 提供 了 保障。 Zhèngfǔ wèi gōngsī tígōng le bǎozhàng.The government provides companies certain protections.

Comparison of 给 and 为 by Collocation

The examples below should help you establish a bit of a feeling regarding the difference between 给and 为. You can see that the ones at the top feel more like something especially done for one person, whereas the ones at the end feel more like duty or obligation. The double yeses in the middle could be either, depending on context.

Verb Pairs with 给? Pairs with 为?
发邮件 YES no
打电话 YES no
服务 no YES
牺牲 no YES
工作 no YES

See also

Sources and further reading