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I encountered the sentence:

両親が私にはがきを送ってくれた。

I understand that: 送って translates to a verb meaning "to send", or I assume in this case "sending" due to the "te-form" being used.

I also understand that: くれた translates to a verb meaning "to give (to be given)"

So a literal translation of 両親が私にはがきを送ってくれた would mean:

My parents, to me, a postcard, Sending and given.

or..

My parents sent and gave me a postcard.

So I don't quite understand why you must say "they sent and gave me a postcard" instead of just "they sent me a postcard". For example

両親が私にはがきを送った。

Is there a grammatical/logical explanation for this? Or is this simply just how it's done for no reason?

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There's a reason. あげる、くれる、and もらう are used not only to mean "give" and "receive," but also as auxiliary verbs meaning "to do something for someone's benefit" (あげる)and "to have something done for your benefit" (くれる and もらう). When used in this sense, these verbs always attach to the て form of a verb.

Here's more information on てくれる specifically.

So the sentence you offered means "My parents (did me the favor of) sending me a postcard." This simply isn't marked in English in the same way, but if you leave out the くれる in Japanese, it sounds unnatural, like you're making a flatly declarative report.

Natural use of these helping verbs in Japanese takes a long time to master for Japanese learners. Enjoy the journey.

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    Just a slight detail that wasn't mentioned: くれる and もらう are both used in the case that you were the one who benefited from the action, but くれる makes it sound more like the other party did it of their own volition whereas もらう makes it sound more like you asked someone to do something for you, or you "got them to do it." – Kurausukun Mar 7 '18 at 18:02
  • Completely agree in the "got them to do it" point. That's consistent with the particle attached to the person or people from whom we receive the favour. "They (subject) did something for me" → 彼ら何かしてくれた 。 and "I (subject) got them (indirect object) to do something for me" → [私が (usually omitted)] 彼ら何かしてもらった。 – jarmanso7 Apr 28 at 23:02

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