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I've always understood the direction of くれる as such:

Outsider ⇒くれる⇒ Me / In-group

and あげる as:

Me / In-group ⇒あげる⇒ Outsider

I was told this direction marks your feeling towards a person as well, so if I were to say:

お隣さんはオヤジにお土産をあげた。

Here using あげる instead of くれる strongly implies that something is wrong with the relationship between you and your old man.

Yet, くれる is used in a sample sentence from a dictionary (研究社):

彼はこじきに一番よい上着をくれてやった。

Why does the dictionary use くれる when 彼 is the giver and こじき is the receiver? Is this usage expressing sympathy towards the beggar, or does what follows (てやる) has more to do with it than direction?

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「くれてやる」 is an arrogant way of saying 「与{あた}える」("to give"). Person A is giving something to another person whom Person A considers to be lower in status than him/herself.

In other words, 「くれてやる」 roughly has the same meaning as 「あげる/やる」 and not 「くれる」. I know it is confusing, but it just needs to be remembered as a set phrase.

Thus, in the sentence:

「彼{かれ}はこじきに一番{いちばん}よい上着{うわぎ}をくれてやった。」

"He gave the beggar his best jacket."

the speaker is in the same in-group as 「彼」 and the speaker is being arrogant in using 「くれてやった」 ("gave"). The speaker clearly feels that both s/he and 彼 are higher in status than the beggar.

Therefore, the usage of 「くれてやる」 here is completely correct as long as the speaker feels s/he is superior.

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  • Could you tell me if あげてやる is a valid usage in this situation, or is くれてやる the only option?
    – Yeti Ape
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 6:49
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    @YetiApe I have never seen or heard あげてやる. Like the answerer says, 「くれてやる」 is a set phrase.
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 20:05

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