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I remember that people often say "don't cry for me" when "I" have some problem or I hurt and people feel sorry for "me" so they "cry for me".

Let's say a child cries because Mom is not with him/her and the child wants mom to come to him/her.

Is it clear and not ambiguous to say "the child is crying for Mom" because it could mean "Mom" hurts and the child cries when he sees that?

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"Don't cry for me/us/them/him/etc" is actually a pretty unique sentence in English — we don't use the same sentence structure for other situations, really. Or at least, I can't think of a case where I would. If the child were crying because her mom was hurt, you wouldn't say "The child is crying for Mom," you'd say something like "The child is crying because her mom is hurt."

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    How about the usage in Don't cry for me Argentina? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don%27t_Cry_for_Me_Argentina – mdewey Jul 5 at 12:54
  • That's also the only example I could think of. I think that movie itself may have popularized that phrase in English: "Don't cry for ___." People don't really use it otherwise. It actually may come from Spanish "No llores por me," again thanks to that movie. That structure is much more common in Spanish. – codi6 Jul 6 at 20:50
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This is a good question. Personally, I think the ambiguity would be resolved by several factors.

Firstly, voice tone; there would likely be a tone of voice that conveys sympathy towards the child.

Secondly, I think context plays a part. If the mother were sad and the child were crying for her, that phrasing would probably only be used in a situation where we were aware of the mother’s sadness/plight. If this situation did occur, and the listener were unsure as to the meaning, I can imagine them requesting clarification.

I also think that in this specific example differences in age/maturity could play a part. In “crying for” someone, we are expressing/experiencing empathy/sympathy. I think there is a general awareness that a young child doesn’t yet possess the capacity for the depth of emotion that would warrant phrasing along the lines of what we mean by “Don’t cry for me.”

I think it’s also worth noting that the “Don’t cry for me” phrasing of “crying for” is somewhat poetic, and might be said more basically as “crying over”, “crying because of” or “crying about”, depending on the context.

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