What Part of Speech Is For?

A word doesn’t necessarily belong to a particular part of speech. Depending on how it is used in a sentence, a word can belong to more than one part of speech.

In this post, we’ll analyze the word for grammatically, looking at the two parts of speech it belongs to: preposition and conjunction. We’ll also look at few parts of speech it doesn’t belong to, but few erroneously think it does. And all this with plenty of examples.

Is for a preposition?

Yes.

That’s the most important role for plays. In all the examples as a preposition, note that for is followed by a noun (which includes noun phrase and noun clause) or pronoun, which together are called prepositional phrase.

As a preposition, for can be used in following ways:

(Comments that go with examples are in square brackets.)

1. It is used to indicate the place where someone or something is heading.

She left for the airport at 7 PM. [Comment: For is followed by the noun phrase the airport, forming the prepositional phrase for the airport.]

I’m leaving for the market.

2. It is used to indicate that something is intended to be given to a person or thing.

Here is a gift for you.

This report card is meant for your parents.

The competition carries a prize money of $1,000 for the best essay.

3. It shows purpose or reason for something.

I’m leaving for an urgent meeting.

I’ll stick around for a chance to speak with the speaker.

Tom went out for a quick chat.

4. It is used in the meaning ‘because of’ or ‘as a result of’

Apple products are known for their design. [Because of]

Although he has quite a few feathers on his cap, Newton is best known for his laws of gravitation and motion. [Because of]

Some are not taking vaccines for multiple reasons. [Because of]

5. It is used in the meaning ‘on the occasion of’ or ‘at the time of’.

There are no special celebrations for New Year this time. [On the occasion of]

I’ve taken an appointment with the doctor for 12:00 noon. [At the time of]

The government is making elaborate arrangements for completing three years in the office. [On the occasion of]

6. It measures distance or time.

The teacher has gone out for five minutes.

Dinosaurs ruled the planet for more than 100 million years.

We trekked for miles, but the camp was nowhere in sight.

7. It is used to compare two things.

He is way advanced in the subject for a class-6 student.

For the limited resources she has, she is way too generous.

He is quite wise for his age.

8. It is used to show support for or agreement with something.

Majority of the senators voted for the proposal.

Anyone for a movie?

Are you up for the adventure?

9. It is used to show what someone would get in exchange of something.

I got my laptop fixed for $80.

I wasted so much time and money on the project for nothing.

How much did you pay for this dress?

Is for a conjunction?

Yes.

For is used as a coordinating conjunction (it’s the first in FANBOYS) in the meaning of because. However, it’s not commonly used and, to avoid confusing people, one would be better off with its replacement because, a subordinating conjunction.

Ants dispose of their dead, for they can infect the entire ant population.

There has been a cut in government spending, for its tax collection has gone down due to decline in economic activity during Covid time.

Some people are avoiding vaccines, for they think vaccines might have side effects.

If you find it challenging to differentiate between for as a preposition and for as a conjunction, there is a simple way to check.

Can the parts before and after for be two independent sentences? If yes, for is a conjunction. If not, for is a preposition.

Ants dispose of their dead, for they can infect the entire ant population. [Conjunction because it can be split into two sentences: Ants dispose of their dead. They can infect the entire ant population.]

Ants dispose of their dead for maintaining cleanliness. [Preposition because it can’t be split into two sentences: Ants dispose of their dead. Keeping cleanliness.]

Is for a verb?

No.

Although rarely, some raise question about for being a verb. It’s not without reason though.

First, few prepositions such as out, off, down, up, near, like, and except function as verb as well, driving few to think that other prepositions might also function as verb.

Second, few prepositions are participle form of verbs, making few think that some prepositions are indeed verbs. Examples of such prepositions: barring, concerning, including, considering, notwithstanding, pending, regarding, respecting, excluding, following, according to, owing to, failing, and given.

Third, for is inextricably linked with few verbs to form what is called phrasal verbs. Examples: account for, answer for, care for, fall for, go for, look for, root for, settle for, speak for, and vouch for.

But for is not even remotely a verb.

We can smile. We can giggle. We can laugh. We can guffaw.

But can we for?

For doesn’t do any action. Hence, it’s not a verb.

Another test you can run is to check if for has past, past participle, and present participle forms like verbs do.

Can we’ve the words forred or forring, assuming it to be a regular verb?

No. Hence, it’s not a verb.

Few also confuse for with linking verb probably because of its role in linking (or joining) two parts of a sentence as a preposition and its shortness (just three letters) that is similar to the most common linking verb be. But for is not a linking verb. As we saw earlier, for acts as a preposition in linking two parts of a sentence.

Is for an adverb?

No.

The word for is not an adverb, but it can start a phrase that acts as an adverb (also called an adverbial). That’s one of the reasons people confuse for to be an adverb. Examples:

I haven’t played outdoor sports for ages. [For is not an adverb but for ages is.]

That’s enough for now. [For is not an adverb but for now is.]

Like for is associated with verbs through its end position in phrasal verbs, it is associated with adverbs though its front position in adverbials. But it is neither a verb nor an adverb. It helps build them though.

Is for a pronoun?

No.

For is not a pronoun by any stretch of imagination.

There are two ways to check this.

First, since pronouns – unlike nouns, verbs, adjective, and adverbs – are few, we can tell from our knowledge of pronouns that for is not one of them.

Second, since a pronoun can take subject or object position in a sentence, for should be able to function as a subject or an object if it is a pronoun. Let’s see this through few examples:

For hit the ball hard. [Subject]

Mac hit for hard. [Object]

None of them makes sense. Hence, it can’t be a pronoun.

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