I've written the sentence

The samples are sent to a laboratory in order for scientists to analyse them.

However, my teacher told me that the phrase "in order for [someone] to [verb]" is incorrect. I did some searches and it seems like it still exists (e.g. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/in%20order%20for%20(someone%20or%20something)%20to). Is there a mistake in my use of this phrase or is my teacher wrong?

  • It is not technically incorrect but it isn't great sounding. "so scientists may analyse them" is better – Lambie Feb 8 '19 at 17:44

I think I remember a similar thing being critiqued by a stuffy grammarian once. They insisted that the right form with "in order" in such a case would be "in order that scientists might analyse them." Never did get a proper explanation why.

In everyday English, it's fine, just a little awkward. For starters, "in order" is redundant. "...for scientists to analyse them" is less formal than using in order that, but it is perfectly good everyday English. Indeed, the fact it is less formal is part of why it is awkward quite aside from the redundancy. It may not even be necessary to explicitly indicate that this is a matter of purpose - "...where scientists analyse them" does perfectly well.

To be absolutely rigorous, I suspect the example your teacher took exception to might be mixing different constructions. I understand that "for [subject] to [verb] them" is an adverbial of purpose, albeit an informal one. So is "in order that [subject] may/might [verb] them", but it is a different one (authorities seem to disagree on the right circumstances to use may vs might). I can see that a strict grammarian might object to mixing them.

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I see absolutely nothing wrong with "in order for scientists to analyse them".

As Lambie says, it is a little bit stilted; but Lambie's correction is a bit colloquial in my view. A neutral form would be "so that scientists may (or can) analyse them".

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  • +1 In formal writing, one would want to avoid it but sometimes in certain circumstances it can be used to avoid ambiguity when the sentence cannot be turned another way. Here, an easy substitute is: so scientists may analyse them. I actually had a typo in my comment but otherwise you have written what I had written above without the "that". – Lambie Feb 8 '19 at 17:52
  • Yes, @Lambie: it was the so as opposed to so that that I was referring to. – Colin Fine Feb 8 '19 at 19:48

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