to be safe

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to be safe

Post by navi » Thu Mar 30, 2017 8:10 pm

1) I gave him the diamond to be safe.
2) I gave the diamond to him to be safe.

Can we tell whether I am supposed to be safe, or he, or the diamond?
I think it will depend on the context, but I am not sure the sentences could have all three meanings.

Gratefully,
Navi.
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Re: to be safe

Post by tony h » Thu Mar 30, 2017 9:19 pm

Both, to me, can have all three meanings.
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Signature: tony

With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Re: to be safe

Post by Phil White » Fri Mar 31, 2017 11:59 pm

I disagree with Tony.

The construction "do something to be safe" has a conventional meaning broadly along the lines of "to take additional measures to avoid unpleasant consequences", but precisely what those consequences might be will depend on the discourse context or on general knowledge:
I couldn't see any patrol cars, but I kept my speed down to be safe.
Consequence: a speeding ticket.
My dog is very friendly, but when I saw the child running towards her, I put her on the lead to be safe.
Consequence: A bitten child and a court case or a kicked dog. And yes, possibly the safety of the child, but the implication is simply "to take additional measures to avoid unpleasant consequences".

If you give a context, the sentences could be made to have specific meanings, some of which could relate to the actual safety of the people or the diamond.
  • I felt vulnerable with the diamond in my house, so I gave him the diamond to be safe.
    i.e. to give me a feeling of security.
  • I thought the diamond could be stolen, so I gave it to him to be safe.
    i.e. so that the diamond would be safe.
  • He was very short of cash, so I gave him the diamond to be safe.
    i.e. so that he could sell it and pay for things
The important thing is, in none of the examples does "safe" really mean "safe" in the sense of "not likely to come to harm", and the precise meaning is given not by the meanings of the words used or by the syntax, but by the discourse context.

That said, none of my examples with the diamond are particularly pretty and are not really the sort of thing a native speaker would say. My other two examples were far more natural. The reason is simply that I find it hard to think of realistic scenarios where one person would give another person a diamond "to take an additional measure to avoid unpleasant consequences".

"... to be safe" has very much the same meaning as "... to be on the safe side" and implies something additional.

If you are really talking about the safety of the diamond or the people in your example, you would say something like "I gave him the diamond so that [I/he/it] would be safe."
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Non sum felix lepus

Re: to be safe

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Apr 01, 2017 4:26 am

Phil White wrote:If you are really talking about the safety of the diamond or the people in your example, you would say something like "I gave him the diamond so that [I/he/it] would be safe."
Or more likely still, "I gave him the diamond to keep me/him/it safe."
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Re: to be safe

Post by tony h » Sat Apr 01, 2017 5:17 pm

navi wrote:1) I gave him the diamond to be safe.
2) I gave the diamond to him to be safe.

Can we tell whether I am supposed to be safe, or he, or the diamond?
I think it will depend on the context, but I am not sure the sentences could have all three meanings.

Gratefully,
Navi.
Phil you put your case very well and suits the most everyday use. This challenged me to put some context to illustrate my position. Thus:

1. As the diamond is very valuable, the hotel manager suggested it should go in the hotel strong-room. So I gave him the diamond to be safe. It would be safer in the hotel strong-room and the insurance would cover it if anything was to happen.

2. A couple of attempts had been made to take the diamond by force. Each attempt was more violent, I was in fear of my life - just because of the diamond. That morning at breakfast in the hotel I had a loud argument with him and very publically gave him the diamond. So I gave him the diamond to be safe. No one would be after me now.

3. I had inherited the mystical Blue Sapphire of Koolamari - it had been blessed by the priests and given to my grandfather to protect him from attack. He carried it through the Boer War, the first world war and in world war two. He never had more than a slight wound. When My brother set out to cross the Gobi desert on a pogostick I was worried for him. So I gave him the diamond to be safe. Unfortunately it seemed to be better able to protect my grandfather from spears and bullets than it was to be able to protect my brother from a number eleven bus. He was posing for a photograph on Burton Street when he was run over.

:) just because we can.
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Signature: tony

With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Re: to be safe

Post by Phil White » Sat Apr 01, 2017 5:25 pm

Yes. You have a better imagination than |. Or more time on your hands. It is possible to establish those contexts, although Erik's suggestion "to keep [him/it/me] safe" works better for me in all those three cases.
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Non sum felix lepus

Re: to be safe

Post by tony h » Sat Apr 01, 2017 9:20 pm

Phil White wrote:Yes. You have a better imagination than |. Or more time on your hands. It is possible to establish those contexts, although Erik's suggestion "to keep [him/it/me] safe" works better for me in all those three cases.
I agree with you about Erik's suggestion. But that's one of the troubles with my mind. All scenarios occured pretty much instantly, it makes for a complicated life.
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Signature: tony

With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

End of topic.
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