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He wants very badly for everyone to like him.

Can we leave out "for" in this sentence? If not, is it because of the adverb "badly",its position in the clause or the following pronoun?

He wants everyone to like him very much.

Here we can use "everyone" without "for". I am sure both sentences are correct and have the same meaning. When should we use "for" with the infinitive clause? Thank you.

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3 Answers 3

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This sentence is a bit awkward:

He wants very badly for everyone to like him.

but the smoothest and least ambiguous way to rearrange it is as follows:

He (very) badly wants everyone to like him.

which removes the need for the word "for".

I would say that the choice of verb is the important thing in determining when "for" is needed with an infinitive phrase. For instance, "want" takes a direct object without a preposition. By contrast, with the verb "pray" you would use "for":

He prays for everyone to like him.
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No, I don't believe it is grammatically correct to leave out the preposition in the first sentence. I would also say the positioning of 'very badly' as an adverbial phrase is slightly awkward in such construction. I would say:

  • He wants everyone to like him very badly.

So that it is used at the end of the sentence, which is why your second example is the correct version of the two. Also to note is that we don’t use for + infinitive to express our purpose or intention. We use to + infinitive. For is normally used with the -ing form of a verb to talk about the function of something or how something is used.

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  • Your transformed sentence is ambiguous.
    – V.V.
    Jan 11, 2017 at 15:06
  • To an extent. However, due to the fact that many words in English have multiple different meanings, context is extremely important. In this case 'badly' would be interpreted as 'very much', not 'unpleasantly'.
    – JUNCINATOR
    Jan 11, 2017 at 23:29
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Here in this case both for and to are subordinator. The subordinator to is used to introduce a non-finite clause, we commonly call to-Infinitive clause.

I like to do it myself.

In here the infinitive clause has its own subject. But it's not mentioned explicitly. The implied subject of the infinitive clause and the subject of the superordinate clause are the same - I.

[Note that we are calling to do it myself a clause. If it doesn't have a subject, how can we call it a subject. It indeed has.]

In some cases the subject is explicitly mentioned.

I have something else for you to do while you are here.

The clause-subordinator - for - is used to add the explicit subject to the to-Infinitive clause. Notice that in this case we need to mention the subject of the infinitive clause explicitly, else in absence of this explicit subject we end up understanding that I have something and I would do it or work on it. With the for you part added, we would interpret it as I have something and you would do or work on this something.

He wants very badly (for) everyone to like him.

Actually in formal and written context you wouldn't expect anyone to write this sentence. You would normally hear the sentence without the clause-subordinator - for. But in informal speech you may hear someone say it. Both of the sentences do mean the same thing.

You must be thinking that the subject of the infinitive clause is mentioned explicitely, still we don't need the clause-subordinator - for. Why? It's because of the main verb of the superordinate clause - want. It licenses a Noun Phrase that can be post modified by a to-infinitive clause. It can also license a to-infinitive clause.

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