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Swap sth for sth

 
 
Reply Sat 12 Apr, 2014 11:47 pm
I've seen the following structure before and it seems there is a disagreement in how to use it:

e.g. Swap almond milk for regular milk.

This sentence apparently means to replace regular milk with almond milk.
Yet, I've also seen the meaning as the other possibility:

e.g. He swapped his cupcake for a candy bar.

This is clear that the cupcake was replaced by a candy bar (thanks to the possessive adjective).

My question: Is there a correct interpretation if there is no possessive attribute? He swapped a cupcake for a candy bar. What does this sentence actually mean? Personally, I think to swap/switch sth for sth means to replace the first thing with the second thing.

Thoughts?
 
View best answer, chosen by deadrxn24
contrex
  Selected Answer
 
  2  
Reply Sun 13 Apr, 2014 01:29 am
@deadrxn24,
The informal, conversation verb 'swap' can have more than one meaning.

Swap almond milk for regular milk.

Here, "swap" means "substitute". We substitute the second thing for first thing.

He swapped his cupcake for a candy bar.

Here, 'swap' means 'exchange'. We exchange the first thing for the second thing.

Quote:
My question: Is there a correct interpretation if there is no possessive attribute?

The correct interpretation is obtained by thinking about what is being described.

Quote:
He swapped a cupcake for a candy bar. What does this sentence actually mean?

Previously you used 'his cupcake'. The word 'his' made it clear that the person initially possessed the cupcake, thus the 'swap' is an exchange. Now you use 'a cupcake' and it is no longer clear. The phrase is ambiguous. It may or may not be possible to resolve this by examining the context (the surrounding words).


It could mean either "He had a cupcake and gave it up in exchange for a candy bar." or
contrex
 
  3  
Reply Sun 13 Apr, 2014 03:44 am
@contrex,
contrex wrote:

It could mean either "He had a cupcake and gave it up in exchange for a candy bar." or



Sorry, I didn't complete that. I think the best things is to use 'swap X for Y' when you mean 'give up X and get Y in return' and 'swap X with Y' when you mean 'transpose X and Y'.

Or use the appropriate word - exchange, transpose, replace, substitute, etc. Swap is very conversational and informal.


deadrxn24
 
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Reply Fri 9 May, 2014 10:31 pm
@contrex,
Sorry about taking nearly a month to get back to this.

I agree with you completely; it seems that the ambiguity with the lack of possession is truly unresolvable in written form without any context. That is, the use of "swap X for Y" (and even "swap X with Y") describes an exchange, but there needs to be reference to determine the actual action.

Thanks for the reply!
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