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I’m afraid German beer isn’t for me.

Does it mean that "This beer isn't suitable for me" or "This isn't given to me"? How should I understand "for" in this context?

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2 Answers 2

Great example of why context is important. Let me add one word to the sentence you have provided:

I'm afraid this German beer isn't for me.

That could mean either of the things you mention in your question. If a waitress was putting a stein down in front of a customer who looked confused, I'd assume the sentence meant:

I didn't order this German beer.

or:

I don't know who ordered this German beer, but it wasn't me.

However, if the man had been sipping from the stein for awhile, and his friend asked, "What do you think of that German beer?" then I'd assume the sentence meant:

This German beer isn't quite to my liking.

or:

I don't think I'll be ordering another one of these any time soon.

In the former scenario, for is being used in accordance with definition 1a in Macmillan, whereas in the latter scenario, for is being used in accordance with Macmillan's definitions #7 & #19:

for (prep.)
1a used for saying who or what is intended to receive something
7 used for saying what you prefer
19 used for saying which person a particular thing would be appropriate for

Sometimes, when a word has well over a dozen meanings, there is no way to tell which meaning is being applied simply by analyzing a single sentence. This is particularly true for prepositions, which can be very tricky.

Back to your original question, though:

I'm afraid German beer isn't for me.

Because that sentence isn't talking about a specific German beer, it's more evident that the person is talking about their liking for German beer in general.

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Deriving the context from just the sentence, it would be something like:

I don't like German beer.

Saying something "isn't for me" is a polite way of stating that you don't like something. There could be many reasons for disliking it, but normally this phrase is used in the context of personal taste or preference.

Edit:

The "I'm afraid" phrase is also a way to make a statement sound more polite. It's close to "I'm sorry," but can be used when someone doesn't really need to apologize.

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