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I have several minor questions as regards the following extract:

There was a time in the country when you'd be considered a jerk if you passed by somebody in need. Now you are a fool for helping. With gangs, drug addicts, murderers, rapists, thieves lurking everywhere, "I don't want to get involved" has become a national motto.   (From The Kindness of Strangers, written by Mike Mclntyre)

Is the bolded "for" used to show a reason or cause here? Is it better to insert "or/and" between the "rapists" and "thieves"?

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The original text

The tenses used in the quoted passage in another question ("Would", meaning "possible or likely") gave me a little trouble trying to follow the scene. Being curious, I searched the web, and I now believe that your text was adapted from Chicken Soup for the Soul: Unlocking the Secrets to Living Your Dreams, page 124.

Here is the original text, with the differences highlighted:

    There was a time in this country when you'd be considered a jerk if you passed by somebody in need. Now you are a fool for helping. With gangs, drug addicts, murderers, rapists, thieves and car jackers1 lurking everywhere, why risk it? "I don't want to get involved" has become a national motto.

1The original uses "car jackers" though carjackers is the common usage.

Explanation

Is the for in "Now you are a fool for helping." used to show a reason or cause here?

Yes, it's used to show the cause (helping) of the reaction (being a fool). According to Practical English Usage by Michael Swan, entry 207.3,

207.3 causes of reactions
For ...ing can also be used after a description of a positive or negative reaction, to explain the behaviour that caused it.
   We are grateful to you for helping us out.
   I'm angry with you for waking me up.
   They punished the child for lying.
   He was sent to prison for stealing.

Is it better to insert "or/and" between the "rapists" and "thieves"?

Although it is possible to omit and, we don't do that very often. In my opinion, it's better to keep and there. And, obviously, in the original there is an and between thieves and car jackers.

  • I didn't expext the text had been modified by some professor in China. If so, I may check all the original text for all the differences. BTW, is it correct to use "because of" or "on account of " here instead of "for"? – Kinzle B Apr 11 '14 at 6:29
  • Imo, "because of" or "on account of" doesn't work quite as well, because it would imply that you've already offered the help. To rephrase, perhaps try: "Nowadays you could be a fool if you helped them." – Damkerng T. Apr 11 '14 at 6:38
  • So what about your other examples? e.g. He was sent to prison because of stealing. I would think this is correct. – Kinzle B Apr 11 '14 at 6:43
  • If the action has already been done, then I agree that "because of" works. Rephrasing it as a full clause (e.g. "He was sent to prison because he stole.") will make it sound more colloquial. So unless your context is quite formal, I'd say that using a full clause is a better choice, or else, just simply use "of" (as in the original text). – Damkerng T. Apr 11 '14 at 6:48
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It looks that for gives the reason of why someone will be considered a fool. Here, helping someone will make/prove you fool because of the reasons discussed there.

There's much less scope for fitting or here as the author wants to emphasize all of them leaving out no gang, drug addict, murderer, rapist or thief. Putting or would simply put them as an option or alternative. In fact, it changes the whole meaning - There I see apples, grapes, and bananas OVER There I see apples, grapes, or bananas.

Now about the and. I agree putting and seems more natural (at least to me). But I searched Swan's book of Practical English Usage that mentions in 16.1 that in a very literary style, 'and' is dropped. In addition, as a rule, it's mentioned that if adjectives goes in predicative position, we put and before the last one with comma - The cowboy was tall, dark and handsome

  • Eh, it doesn't seem a literary style here to me. – Kinzle B Apr 10 '14 at 9:38
  • @MaulikV Please write the name of Swan's book in full. Also, if you found an explanation that you think it's relevant, it's better to write the quote in full, or at the very least mention the entry number, so that it can be verified. (I couldn't find "in a very literary style, 'and' is dropped", but it's not something easy to find in a book.) – Damkerng T. Apr 10 '14 at 10:23
  • @DamkerngT. Okay, I'll mention the book's name but as far as the reference is concerned, it'd be difficult to give the exact entry number as I prepare notes from various books and beside entry, I just mention the book and not the entry number. As notes, I always thought of writing down the rule than its entry number. I never thought of mentioning it here considering that when we say the reference, where, which page and which entry is secondary. – Maulik V Apr 10 '14 at 10:47
  • @snailplane - hey thanks for adding the entry number. – Maulik V Apr 10 '14 at 17:44

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