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Sunday, January 06, 2008

What for?

I'd like to get your input on ways that you use or have observed others today use the English word "for". Here are three uses of "for" that quickly come to my mind (there are others, my minds, but uses!):
  1. "For" is widely used to indicate that something is done for the benefit of someone else. For instance, I can say, "Peter created a website for me." This means, of course, that not only did Peter create a website but he made it for my benefit. Perhaps I asked him to make it for me.
  2. "For" is commonly used in phrases which indicate duration of time, such as when someone might say, "I practiced the piano for thirty minutes."
  3. "For" is used in some phrases such as "for example, "for instance", and "What for?"
Please listen to your own speech or observe your writing and/or that of others around you and list any other current uses for "for" besides the three I have just listed. Feel free to include your observations in comments to this post. Thanks.

When we get enough data, I want to refer to it in some comments about translating the Bible into current English.


At Mon Jan 07, 06:54:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Okay, I'm cheating. These don't come from my mind, but from the American Heritage Dictionary:

1 in support of or in favor of (a person or policy) : they voted for independence in a referendum.

2 affecting, with regard to, or in respect of (someone or something) : she is responsible for the efficient running of their department | the demand for money.

3 on behalf of or to the benefit of (someone or something) : these parents aren't speaking for everyone.
• employed by : it was a good firm to work for.

4 having (the thing mentioned) as a purpose or function : she is searching for enlightenment | the necessary tools for making a picture frame.

5 having (the thing mentioned) as a reason or cause : Aileen is proud of her family for their support | I could dance and sing for joy.

6 having (the place mentioned) as a destination : they are leaving for Swampscott tomorrow.

7 representing (the thing mentioned) : the “F” is for Fascinating.

8 in place of or in exchange for (something) : swap these two bottles for that one.
• charged as (a price) : copies are available for only a buck.

9 in relation to the expected norm of (something) : she was tall for her age | warm weather for this time of year.

10 indicating the length of (a period of time) : he was in prison for 12 years | I haven't seen him for some time.

11 indicating the extent of (a distance) : he crawled for 300 yards.

12 indicating an occasion in a series : the camcorder failed for the third time.

At Mon Jan 07, 09:35:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Rick, I have the electronic AHED as well. I don't consider that you "cheated" since as I have looked at each ex., they all look natural, current English to me.

There is at least one other use of "for" which neither you nor I included. I'm interested to see if anyone here will suggest it as a current use of "for".

At Mon Jan 07, 11:17:00 AM, Blogger Michael Kruse said...

How about "for" as a synonym for "because," as in:

I will not offer criticism for I am not qualified to do so.

At Mon Jan 07, 11:29:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

How about "for" as a synonym for "because,"

Thanks, Michael. This is the one I was looking for. I want to find out if it is used by contemporary speakers of English, or if it is mostly dated usage.

If anyone reading this regularly says or writes "for" instead of "because" or "since", I would appreciate knowing about it. I am not so interested in whether someone *could* use "for" this way, but whether they actually do.

At Mon Jan 07, 01:10:00 PM, Blogger Charity said...

I don't personally use 'for' in that way. My Grandmother used to do, but she died over 10 years ago now. Maybe it is used less now, due to the fact that lots of people contract 'because' into 'coz' (at least in UK English) so the need for a 1-syllable causative conjunction is felt less strongly. I would guess that 'for' may still be used by people who speak very correctly.

A phrase which has come to my mind is "for what it's worth", but I can't make it fit into any of the categories from the American Heritage Dictionary.

I'll be back if I think of any more.

At Mon Jan 07, 03:33:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I do sometimes use "for" meaning "because". See examples here, in the section numbered 2, and twice here, in the paragraph after the Graham Kendrick quote. But maybe my writing is a bit too affected by Biblish.

At Tue Jan 08, 06:06:00 AM, Blogger Rich Holton said...

I'm not sure if this fits into one of the already listed uses...

Sometimes for is used to begin an item in a list of reasons.

"I don't agree with that proposal. For one thing, it goes against our stated mission..."

At Tue Jan 08, 06:31:00 AM, Blogger Michael Kruse said...

I rarely hear the “because” usage in the circles I run in. When I do hear it used this way it usually comes from folks who are well schooled in language or have literary interests. Something in me wants to identify it with the King’s English and maybe that has to do with the KJV. :) Anyway, I think the typical Midwest American might find the usage either elitist or archaic.

At Tue Jan 08, 11:04:00 AM, Blogger Milton Stanley said...

In everyday speech I've never heard anyone use "for" in the KJV sense of "because." I've heard it in flights of rhetorical exercise, such as preaching, but never in everyday conversation, for it's now mostly obsolete in that sense.


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