I am confused the usage between 'of something' and 'for something'. E.g., the difference between

the expression for freedom


the expression of freedom


the sacrifice for freedom


the sacrifice of freedom

They seem both refer to the same thing. the sacrifice for freedom seems to me that it means the sacrifice was made for freedom; the sacrifice of freedom seems to me it's the sacrificing of freedom, so both refer that they are a direct relation of freedom, it's hard to know which should use between them.

I wrote these expressions myself, because it seems to me 'expression of something' and 'expression for something' look the same. I am having hard time discerning the difference between them. Furthermore, I get confused between 'of something' and 'for something'. I am often puzzled which one should be used in specific context correctly.

So what's essential difference between 'of something' and 'for something'?

  • 1
    Do you mean a) How is [the state of being free] expressed in English? or b) In what way should I ask how to express the state of being free in English? – StoneyB Jun 15 '17 at 18:34
  • The appropriate response to the feedback you've received is to try to improve your question with more detail. I think you have made some improvements and I've tried to help by incorporating some of your comments. The right place to discuss your other concerns is on English Language Learners Meta. There are a lot of helpful discussions there about how the site works and how to use it, including ell.meta.stackexchange.com/q/439 . – ColleenV Jun 16 '17 at 14:38

I think that as a rule of thumb the choice between “expression for” and “expression of” depends on whether we are trying to (1) define a phrase or (2) explain the meaning of things or facts.

  1. Where A is a group of words that amounts to B, we say that A is an expression for B.

  2. Where A is a thing or fact (not words) that reflects or reveals B, we say that A is an expression of B.

    • “I want freedom for the full expression of my personality.” -- Mahatma Gandhi

    • “A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels...” -- Ansel Adams

    • “My music is the spiritual expression of what I am...” -- John Coltrane

    • “Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist...” -- Edward Hopper

(I did find some exceptions.)

But a general rule would not be possible that distinguishes all expressions involving "for" and "of." That question is impossibly broad.


I live in prairie Canada.

"The expression for being free" makes me think you are describing phrases that describe the state of being free. "The expression of being free" makes me think you are describing actions that people are taking to utilize or celebrate their state of freedom.

  • My thoughts align with yours. That said, I'd like to add that neither one sounds like idiomatic English – especially with the definite article at the front. (Surely there is more than one way to "express freedom" – yes?) – J.R. Jun 15 '17 at 19:53
  • @user239460 - You haven't told us what you are trying to say, so I have no idea how I would word it myself. It sounds like more like gibberish to me than a coherent thought. – J.R. Jun 16 '17 at 9:19
  • @user239460 - I didn't call your question "gibberish". I was only referring to the statement: the expression for freedom. And read my words more carefully, please: It sounds like more like gibberish to me than a coherent thought. I'm saying that, without knowing what you are trying to say, the words don't make any sense to me. I'm not here to argue either, I was only trying to help by answering your question. But if I can't figure out what you are trying to say, how can I tell you how I would say it? – J.R. Jun 16 '17 at 14:43
  • @user239460 - I always try to help on this site. We are glad to have you here. – J.R. Jun 16 '17 at 15:00


Expression of freedom is an act that originates from being free. Say, criticizing the government is expression of freedom - exercising your right to free speech.

"Expression for freedom" is just something that describes freedom - a phrase or a word that means the same as the word "freedom" - e.g. "Liberté" is the french expression for freedom.

Similarly, "sacrifice of freedom" means losing the freedom - say, yielding to an invader, begging to be spared, but agreeing to become their servant. "Sacrifice for freedom" is the opposite - losing something else, to gain, or bring freedom. Fighting the invader, and even dying in the battle, so that you, or your nation keeps - or gains - freedom.


X for Y defines purpose - answering the question why.

Expression for freedom means someone is expressing something so that he/she can maintain or gain freedom.

X of Y means Y comes out of/derives from X or Y belongs to X, or "having to do with". It answers the question what, which, or when.

Expression of freedom means someone is expressing something that has to do with freedom.

  • 1
    @user239460 The best way to thank someone for a helpful answer is to up-vote it! – ColleenV Jun 16 '17 at 14:10
  • @user239460 - I think what ColleenV is trying to say is that comments saying little more than "thanks for your great answer" are generally frowned upon on the Stack Exchange. You can read more about this here and here. – J.R. Jun 16 '17 at 14:52
  • 2
    @user239460 - Downvotes are not "evil," they are a feedback mechanism designed to help keep the quality of questions high. Moreover, the creators of the Stack Exchange wisely made it so that an upvote increases your rep by +5, and a downvote by -2. Therefore, in this situation, you've had (as of right now) two upvotes and three downvotes, so you've still gained 4 points. That said, if you'd rather go elsewhere than learn how to write a better question, that's your choice. We're not going to change a system that's been in place for seven years so that you don't get your feelings hurt. – J.R. Jun 17 '17 at 1:04

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