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I feel the sentence "I didn't do it for you" can have 2 different, almost opposite interpretations.

  1. I didn't do it, and that's for you.
  2. I did it, but for others, not for you.

Is that true? If not, which interperation is correct?

Thank you!

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    Everything depends on how the stress and intonation comes out. Aug 17, 2017 at 21:30

1 Answer 1

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It is ambiguous. It could mean: 1) I didn't do it, though you'd wanted me to. 2) I did it, but not for you. Rather, for someone else or some other reason.

Example of (1) Q: Did you clean the floor for me, as I asked you to? A: No, I didn't do it for you. Sorry.

This would probably be clear from context. But you could omit the "for you" to make it clearer.

Example of (2) Person A: Thank you for cleaning the floor. Person B: I didn't do it for you.

If you wanted to be even clearer you could say "I did, but not for you".

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    Thank you for the elaborate answer! Could there be a third interperation? "I didn't do it, and that's for your sake". For example, "Someone told me to leave this place, but I didn't do it for you. You would need me here." Aug 17, 2017 at 21:32
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    Another possibility is that the emphasis could be on the word "I". "I didn't do it for you. Charles did." (It was done, but by someone else.) This is really the same meaning as (1) (either way, I didn't do it), though the consequences are different for the person who wanted it done.
    – rjpond
    Aug 17, 2017 at 21:35
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    @EaminZhang A: Thanks for cleaning the floor for me. B: I didn't do it for you--I did it with you. Aug 17, 2017 at 21:39

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