Which of the following sentences is correct one in the following context?

"What for?"


"What is for?"

Context: Someone sent me message and asked me to be a follower on Instagram. What of the above sentences is more accurate to use?

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    Which of the following sentences... – Mari-Lou A Mar 12 '18 at 15:18

I wouldn't say that the phrase What is for? is completely ungrammatical. Phonetically, it sounds like you're literally asking what does the word for mean:

What is "for"? (What does it mean and how to use it?)

What for? is, of course, the idiom you should use in this situation because it's a legitimate expression in English and it means exactly what you intend to say:

for what purpose? why?


— Tomorrow, I'm going to my Mom's. Will you come with me?
— What for?
— Well, you could help her in her garden.

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    Q: "What is for?" A: "Four is the number that comes after five." – J.R. Mar 12 '18 at 15:09
  • @J.R. Yes. Phonetically, it can be taken even that far. – Michael Rybkin Mar 12 '18 at 15:12
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    @CookieMonster By putting "for" in quotation marks, you are making the question grammatical, but also likely changing the meaning from what the original poster intended. :) – Jim MacKenzie Mar 12 '18 at 15:15
  • If someone was asking verbally instead of writing a question, you'd have no way of knowing which was which. In writing, though, the word being asked about should be in quotation marks or italics; for example: What is to? – J.R. Mar 12 '18 at 15:15

"What is for?" is not grammatical and shouldn't be used.

Many people colloquially ask "What for?" as a synonym for "Why?", but personally, I think "why" is better - it's shorter and it's clear to everyone, being one of the English language's most commonly-used words.

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    As a footnote, even though "What is for?" is indeed an ungrammatical question, the questions "What is this for?" (or "What is that for?") are perfect valid, and can be used to mean, "What is the purpose of this?" – J.R. Mar 12 '18 at 15:08
  • @J.R. That's a fair point. – Jim MacKenzie Mar 12 '18 at 15:14
  • Jim M.: What are comments for? ;-) – J.R. Mar 12 '18 at 15:16
  • @J.R.♦: There's been a fairly long-running What are the Welsh for? gag in the UK. I can't actually recall seeing Why are the Welsh?, but syntactically it "sorta" makes sense. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Mar 12 '18 at 16:08

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