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The way I understand it, the sentence 'forgive me for we forgive our enemies' has a coordinating conjunction i.e. for and hence it could be considered a 'compound sentence' having two independent clauses.

If that is correct, is there a way to transform this sentence into a 'simple sentence' with only one clause without affecting its meaning?

(I couldn't find a related tag for the post)

Edit 1: This question is related to what my grammar book calls 'synthesis of sentences'. I am not assuming that anyone here does not understand what 'synthesis of sentences' refers to, but just to clarify what I understand about it, it refers to the transformation of simple, compound and complex sentences.

Example: As he saw the police, he ran away – a complex sentence with two clauses as there are two finite verbs, saw and ran. This sentence could be rewritten (transformed) as: Seeing the police, he ran away which is a simple sentence with one clause and one finite verb or with one subject and one predicate since seeing, which is a present participle, functions as a non-finite verb.

That's just what I know about. I felt that some sentences cannot be transformed and was wondering if forgive me for we forgive our enemies or even the thief crept as a jackal does was one such sentence.

  • It's not a compound sentence, but a complex one; for is not a coordinating conjunction but a subordinating conjunction. This is not what traditional grammar teaches; but the for clause acts as a sentential adjunct, just like a because clause. – StoneyB Mar 19 '14 at 22:31
  • I see your point. But where I live, English is a foreign language and we learn it largely by referring to grammar books. I am not saying that my grammar books are the only valid reference, so I do try to verify that information online. Here, this website listed for among the seven coordinating conjunctions. I too feel that for, that can be substituted with because, since, as, etc, is more like a subordinating conjunction. – Elzee Mar 20 '14 at 4:41
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OP's usage was common enough a century or two ago, but today you'd normally only find for being used to mean because in deliberately archaic/poetic contexts...

Lord, help me for I am poor and alone.

My guess is it's impossible to recast OP's exact words into a "simple" sentence (whatever that means), because semantically there are effectively two separate elements...

We forgive our enemies
[So/Therefore, please/you should] forgive me

You can only recast it into more modern English - "We forgive our enemies, so you should forgive me".


As has been pointed out, perhaps what OP actually means is "Forgive me in the same way that we forgive our enemies". Because the sentiment itself has "dated" religious overtones of The Lord's Prayer ("Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us"), it's not a good example to "modernise". But in general we tend to use like in such constructions today...

"I just wish you could love me like I love you" (where as would be somewhat dated/poetic today).


It's also worth pointing out that as = because could be used in my first example, but my feeling is that in general we tend to avoid using as with either of those senses today. Or if we do, we tend to use other "devices" to make the meaning clearer...

1: "As you said you wouldn't be home until late, I only cooked tea for myself"
2: "I only cooked tea for myself as you said you wouldn't be home until late"

Putting as at the start in #1 makes it "stand out" more, so it's easier to parse/interpret (but probably most speakers would use since or because anyway).

3: "I only cooked tea for myself, just as I usually do on Tuesday nights when you work late"

Including just also helps the usage stand out - again, making it easier to parse (but many speakers today would use like there, even though others may consider such usage "slangy").

  • Thanks for a detailed answer. But my question is not about the archaic usage of for or how it can be substituted with other conjunctions. Please look at the edit I have made to add more information. – Elzee Mar 20 '14 at 4:33
  • @Elzee: Well, if I didn't understand what you were asking before, I certainly don't understand any better following your edit. Perhaps this link will help you, if you want to know more about simple, complex, compound sentences. But I can't see why you would want to "transform" a complex sentence into a simple one, or what kind of "rules" might enable you to do this. – FumbleFingers Mar 20 '14 at 14:51
  • The need to transform a complex sentence into a simple sentence is merely academic in this context. I think the idea is to enable the learner to see different possibilities of expressing the same idea. Like I said in the edit, it's a book intended to help one learn English as a foreign language. I simply picked a sentence from the 'exercises' section, unsure if it was possible to transform every complex sentence into a simple one. But it's OK if you still don't see what I am getting at because the way you know English as a language can be very different from the way I am learning it. – Elzee Mar 20 '14 at 17:03
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    @Elzee: All I can say is if that book gave "As he saw the police, he ran away" as an example "complex" sentence capable of being transformed into a simple one, you might want to consider getting a different textbook. A learner might have trouble figuring out why that "transformation" (presumably, presented as a useful "technique/rule") wouldn't work with, say, As I got dressed the phone rang. – FumbleFingers Mar 20 '14 at 17:53
  • Yes, I agree. The transformation doesn't seem to work with As I got dressed, the phone rang and we can possibly come up with many such instances where rephrasing a complex sentence into a simple one is either not possible or doing so results in distorted meaning. That's what I was waiting to hear and although you haven't said it explicitly, you have surely implied it. – Elzee Mar 20 '14 at 19:39
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This sentence is, simply put, do this because this happens. The 'because' can be replaced with many words, one of them being 'for', as is this example.

I don't know why you would want a simple sentence out of this because it's quite elegantly put, but I think (think) you could say Forgive me in the same way we forgive our enemies. This may also be seen as a conjunction, but it is far more subtle, and is correct and almost exactly the same in meaning.

  • Or even “Forgive me as we forgive our enemies.” – Scott Mar 19 '14 at 21:37
  • 'Forgive me in the same way or as we forgive our enemies' is still a complex sentence, as StoneyB has pointed out, because it still has two clauses with two finite verbs. – Elzee Mar 20 '14 at 4:03
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The answer of the above question is: Forgive me for us forgiving our enemies. This is a simple sentence as it has one finite verb, which is 'forgive'. The subject of the sentence, You, is implied though. The answer 'Forgive me for forgiving our enemies' cannot be correct because the meaning of the question and the answer is not the same. Forgive me for forgiving our enemies means I am the only forgiver forgiving our common enemies. But the question states it clearly that we all forgive our enemies and I want the implied subject, most probably God, to forgive me for all of us.

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    No: for here does not introduce a complement, the act which must be forgiven, as in Forgive me for interrupting you, but an adjunct, Forgive me, because I forgave John. – StoneyB Jun 8 '14 at 13:20

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