This morning on the radio, I heard America's hit "A Horse with No Name". As usual when I hear it, I wonder what the following sentence mean.

'Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain

Wikipedia says that it is "oddly" written and also written under influence (while this explanation seems disputed afterwards). So because it is so odd for me as a non-native English speaker, I just never understand the meaning of that one sentence in the song.

What bugs me most is the seemingly triple negation as well as the "for to". What would a correct version of the sentence be?

  • 2
    To hear the song in context requires a heavy dose of narcotics. Don't fret over not being fully able to understand the poorly structured sentences of drugged songwriters
    – Kris
    Sep 8, 2016 at 12:28
  • There Isn't anyone who wouldn't annoy you, IMHO.
    – V.V.
    Sep 8, 2016 at 13:19
  • The extra word FOR, is just to make the line work: there is nobody to give you any pain. The rest is just uneducated speech. Very common, though.
    – Lambie
    Sep 1, 2017 at 22:16

3 Answers 3


"There ain't no one" means "There is no one." The double negative is colloquial and is used incorrectly. As in "I ain't got no money" which means "I have no money" instead of the logical "I don't have no money = I do have some money".

Likewise I think the last "no" is also redundant, so "no pain" really just means "pain".

"For to" is a poetic and colloquial double usage. The meaning of "for" and "to" is similar; only one or other of them needs to be used, not both. The correct use of "for" and "to" is often confused. In some cultures, where the distinction is not understood, someone will use both. Poetically both words are used instead of one to provide an extra syllable so that the line has the correct beat or rhythm.

What is left is : "In the desert... there is no one to hurt or disappoint you. It is a place where you can escape life's troubles."

  • Then why can we remember our name? I think you've been too literal/logical in your interpretation.
    – djna
    Sep 8, 2016 at 17:03
  • +1 now that you have edited to give the much probable (positive) interpretation of the sentence Sep 8, 2016 at 17:08
  • 1
    @djna : Sorry, I altered the last paragraph while you commented. Yes I have interpreted the line literally. However, the meaning of the song is discussed in comments here and it seems the writer intended the song to reflect the peaceful world he encountered in the desert. My interpretation now agrees with the writer's intention. "You can remember your name" means that in the solitude of the desert you can 'reconnect' with your true self. Sep 8, 2016 at 17:10

The lyrics of the chorus

I've been through the desert on a horse with no name

It felt good to be out of the rain

In the desert you can remember your name 'Cause

there ain't no one for to give you no pain

I interpret this to mean that there are positives to being in the desert, it feels good and you can remember your name because you are alone:

No one is causing you pain

While there seem to be not just double but triple negatives here (ain't, no one, no pain) I think the rest of the chorus gives us that there's a positive meaning here ... we are pain free.

Quite how that stacks up with the verses is beyond me.

  • 1
    I'm voting this down because I don't see anything on the "for to" thing. If you include something about it, please ping me so I can withdraw it.
    – LoremIpsum
    Apr 20, 2021 at 17:39
  • 1
    You know what, an upvote ain't enough for to cause me to explain :-)
    – djna
    Apr 21, 2021 at 10:25
  • 1
    I should have included a disclaimer that I did not make that comment to taunt you, but rather because I think it is good to explain a downvote. BTW nice response haha.
    – LoremIpsum
    Apr 21, 2021 at 18:22
  • 1
    Thanks, I took it in that spirit. I thought about elaborating "for to" and felt overwhelmed - indeed I'm not even sure I can explain it.
    – djna
    Apr 22, 2021 at 4:10

There ain't no one for to give you no pain. Obviously, that's slang. It mean's nobody's on your case and you can do what you want to do.

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