Which preposition should go first? "for two hours" or "for her"? and why?

He has been writing a letter for two hours to her.

He has been writing a letter to her for two hours.

  • 1
    I can understand both sentences, but the first one is confusing. This error is called a misplaced modifier. Does he write a letter for a person named "two hours"?, it's quite ridiculous right. The second sentence is OK. – user178049 Jan 30 '17 at 10:19
  • 2
    Normally we write letters to people, not for them. I wouldn't go so far as to say "for her" is incorrect, but I do think this could be improved by saying: For two hours, he has been writing a letter to her. – J.R. Jan 30 '17 at 10:35
  • Shouldn't it be since two hours? – CinCout Jan 30 '17 at 10:58
  • @CinCout - No, but it could be: He has been writing a letter to her since two hours ago. – J.R. Jan 30 '17 at 10:59
  • @J.R. I am sure you are wrong about this one. ago is not required; since itself gives the starting point of actions, events or states. It refers to when things began. – CinCout Jan 30 '17 at 11:52

First, as people have pointed out in the comments "writing a letter to her" is much more natural than "writing a letter for her" [The question has already been edited to change this].

Secondly, both ways round are grammatical - but the "to her" is part of the pattern "write a letter to ...", so there is a strong preference for putting it closer to the verb than an adjunct (an optional extra) such as "for two hours".

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  • Agreed. Note that "writing a letter for her" is quite valid but it is equivalent to "writing a letter on her behalf" – AdrianHHH Jan 30 '17 at 13:56
  • Would whoever downvoted this like to indicate why? I'm not bothered about being downvoted per se, but as it stands it has a negative score, which may suggest that it is not useful. If it isn't, I'd like to know why. – Colin Fine Feb 1 '17 at 14:58

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