2

I understand from this post:

Acheter qqch à/de/pour qqn

that "acheter qqch à qqun" could mean "to buy something for someone", or "to buy something from someone", and that only context clarify the ambiguity.

How do I say the following sentence in French, then, which requires both "for" and "from"?

"Can you buy a birthday cake for my nephew from that fancy bakery we went to last year?"

1

I would translate the following sentence:

Can you buy a birthday cake for my nephew from that fancy bakery we went to last year?

In french this way:

Pouvez-vous acheter un gâteau d'anniversaire pour mon neveu, à cette boulangerie de luxe où nous sommes allés l'année dernière?


Q:Can I have more explanations about why did you use "à" in the last sentence ?
A: Yes, I'll try:

à is a french préposition used here in order to describe a destination;

FR: Où allons nous? Nous allons à Paris.
EN: Where are we going? We're going to Paris.

FR: Où allons nous pour acheter le gâteau d'anniversaire? Nous allons à cette boulangerie de luxe où nous sommes allés l'année dernière.
EN: Where are we going to buy the birthday cake ? We're going to that fancy bakery we went to last year.

  • 1) So if I say "I'm going to buy a birthday cake for my nephew, from Paul", I can still use "à", even though "Paul" is not a destination? 2) With "Je vais acheter un gâteau à mon neveu", could this indeed mean both "I'm going to buy a cake for my nephew" and "I'm going to buy a cake from my nephew"? 3) If I mean to say "for my nephew", is there a difference in meaning between "à mon neveu" and "pour mon neveu"? – silph Apr 27 at 1:26
1

The question you linked already tells a way to disambiguate the intended meaning when à is followed by a person:

J'achète un livre à/pour mon ami.

  • à : Ceci peut signifier deux choses selon le contexte :
    1. ...
    2. J'achète un livre avec l'intention de le donner à mon ami.
  • pour : Ceci peut signifier deux choses selon le contexte :
    1. J'achète un livre avec l'intention de le donner à mon ami.
    2. ...

Note that the same issue does happen with lui:

À propos de mon ami, est-ce que tu peux lui acheter un gâteau d'anniversaire.

Here the friend can be either the recipient or the seller.

However, your English sentence is not a good example if this potential issue as you use a different à:

Can you buy a birthday cake for my nephew from that fancy bakery we went to last year?

Here from doesn't mean from someone but from some place. In such case, there is no ambiguity so you might still use à for both terms:

Est-ce que tu peux acheter un gâteau d'anniversaire à mon neveu à la super pâtisserie où on est allés l'année dernière ?

In any case, the meaning is very often obvious, even without more context than the sentence itself. e.g.

J'ai acheté des chaussures à mon fils (for my son)

J'ai acheté une langouste à mon poissonnier (from my fishmonger)

  • is it true that your example sentence (with "... un gâteau d'anniversaire à mon neveu à la super pâtisserie") could mean (even if it's very unlikely) "Can you buy a cake from my nephew (ie, paying my nephew some money), for the bakery (ie, giving the cake to the bakery)" ? Or is there in fact zero possibility of this sentence meaning this, because of some reason involving "à + [non-person]" always meaning "from [non-person]"? – silph Apr 27 at 1:47
  • The eventuality for à la pâtisserie to mean for the bakery is essentially zero. Even when the place is not a commercial one, you won't say à. The sentence j'ai acheté une nouvelle porte d'entrée à la maison is not idiomatic. There is however a slight possibility for the nephew to work at the bakery and then the cake to be for someone else's birthday: Can you buy a birthday cake from my nephew in that fancy bakery... – jlliagre Apr 27 at 2:38
  • so, "Can you buy a cake for my husband from my nephew in that fancy bakery" could be translated by "Mon neveu est pâtissier. Est-ce que tu peux acheter un gâteau à mon mari à mon neveu à la pâtisserie de luxe"? If so, it interests me that a sentence can use à multiple times in the same short sentence. – silph Apr 27 at 3:47
  • No. À mon mari à mon neveu is impossible. That would be Est-ce que tu peux acheter un gâteau à mon neveu pour mon mari à la pâtisserie or just Est-ce que tu peux lui acheter un gâteau pour mon mari" as you just say *mon neveu est pâtissier. In either case, you would probably avoid saying à la pâtisserie de luxe où on est allés as there is no evidence he is working in it. – jlliagre Apr 27 at 7:52
  • No. À mon mari à mon neveu is impossible. That would be est-ce que tu peux acheter un gâteau à mon neveu pour mon mari à la pâtisserie (which is a little convoluted) or just est-ce que tu peux lui acheter un gâteau pour mon mari as you just say mon neveu est pâtissier. In either case, you would probably avoid saying à la pâtisserie de luxe où on est allés as there is no evidence he is working in it. – jlliagre Apr 27 at 8:01
0

I think you understand and explain perfectly well.

In french "acheter à ..." can both mean "buy from" and "buy for", depending on the context, the sentence.

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