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I understand the usage of opt to (do something) and opt out (of something), but I'm a little confused about opt vs opt for. For example:

Which Subjects did you _____? I _____ philosophy; he, however, was thinking of ______ criminology.

What is the correct usage in the above sentences, opt or opt for?

  • Did you invent that example yourself? – user3395 Jul 18 '19 at 16:00
  • Yes; I saw many people I know using 'opt' in the same context, but it did not sound right, so I asked here. – Zaeem Jul 19 '19 at 12:31
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To my ears, "opt" always needs a preposition after it.

Looking for exceptions, I hit on this article, which purports to list the prepositions which can follow "opt", in order of frequency. The most common is "for" followed by "out", "into", "to", and "in".

Of course the one you choose (or "opt for") depends on your specific circumstance.

In your examples (where the thing to be selected is a simple noun), "opt for" is appropriate.

Which Subjects did you opt for?

I opted for philosophy; he, however, was thinking of opting for criminology.

In the second sentence, using that expression twice sounds a little clumsy though. One of those opt fors could be replaced by a form of "to choose", which means exactly the same thing. Something like:

I chose philosophy; he, however, was thinking of opting for criminology.

But "opt" without any preposition (as in: "Which subjects did you opt?") is not idiomatic.

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    The problem for me is the question: Which subjects did you opt for? Who would even say that? One would say: Which subjects did you choose? Which subjects have you chosen? – Lambie Jul 17 '19 at 15:49
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You opt in /out of something. [receive ads online for something, for example]

You opt to do something.

Opt for is somewhat awkward. And can sound quite unidiomatic.

What subjects did you opt to take? Where opt means to choose.

He opted to take criminology. for just would not be used in a sentence like that.

If you absolutely must use opt for, it has to be followed by a noun:

to opt for criminology; to opt for philosophy.

It is not elegant.

This might be a typical exchange using opt for:

John: Well, there is always criminology or philosophy
Mary: Yes, I opted for criminology.

That said: Which subjects did you opt for? would not be a usual way to express choices about subjects to be chosen for a course of study.

It would be used to confirm a person's choice in a situation that is presented to that person. Also, opt for has to be following by a noun in this kind of usage.

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  • The preposition for most definitely collocates with opt (and it's therefore misleading to say it's awkward – perhaps in a specific context, but that's not mentioned in your answer. Feel free to inspect these examples (COCA). See also user Lorel C.'s answer above. – user3395 Jul 17 '19 at 15:43
  • @userr2684291 It may collocate, yes. But here one would not say: I opted for criminology. And the question: Which subjects did you opt for? would not generally be expressed like that by a native speaker going to university. – Lambie Jul 17 '19 at 15:46
  • Yes, I see what you mean, but no one's saying opt for is intended with the meaning "chose for a course of study" absent any context. In the right context, say, A: I had to choose between math, physics, and biology. B: So, which subject did you opt for? A: I went with math., I don't think it should necessarily be unidiomatic (it simply means "choose" there). – user3395 Jul 17 '19 at 16:15
  • @userr2684291 Please read Lorel C's answer. She also says it is clumsy. Why pick on me? – Lambie Jul 17 '19 at 16:19
  • I'm not picking on anyone, and they say it's only clumsy because it's repeated twice: "In the second sentence, using that expression twice sounds a little clumsy though. One of those opt fors could be replaced by a form of 'to choose', which means exactly the same thing." – user3395 Jul 17 '19 at 16:30

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