[ADDED:] Which of the following is the meaning of "I trade A for B"?

  1. I give A so that I can get B.
  2. I give B so that I can get A.

The following is an example from a piece of news on this site:

The change comes as Chretien's Liberal Party is besieged by charges that it trades favors for campaign money. The announcement appeared intended to shore up his political standing with an increasingly restive electorate and within his own party to preserve his parliamentary leadership position.

I understand that "trade" means exchange and "favor" means "the support or approval of someone", which should refer to "the support of the Chretien's Liberal Party" here. But what does it mean that "it trades favors for campaign money" --- "the party exchange the support for campaign money"? How did they do they?

  • Having played TONS of Settlers of Catan, this is one of my pet peeves, namely ambiguous phrasing. What's worse is when people don't use it consistently.
    – aslum
    Mar 28, 2012 at 18:05

3 Answers 3


A Favor is a special privilege or right granted or conceded

So if the Party is trading favors for campaign money it means that if donations to the Party are made they will reciprocate by, for example, passing legislation that benefits the donors or taking other actions afforded by their position in a quid pro quo fashion.

  • This was a very convoluted way of saying that “I trade A for B" means “I give A so that I can get B.” Jan 23 at 12:13

When you trade A for B, it means you give A so that you can get B. It might be more clear if you think of it as "I trade my A to get B".

  • Basically it’s the reversed logic compared with “I substitute A for B,” which means that you add A and remove B (or maybe it’s just me who am self-centered). Jan 23 at 12:18

In answer to your original question, it has the first meaning - that you will give A in order to receive B.

However, I think your confusion is coming from the fact that you're talking about the use of favour as a verb, while the sentence you're quoting uses favour as a noun (if you'll excuse my Canadian spelling).

As a verb, favour refers to preference or support, as you mentioned. So, a person can favour a political party, and as a result support them in elections and other political adventures.

In this sentence, it refers to favour as a noun, which is a task or other undertaking that someone can do to help someone else, usually with some inconvenience (c.f., "Could you do me a favour?"). In this sense, the political party is receiving campaign money in exchange for some promise that they will be able to act upon, should they come into power.

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