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Is there any difference between check for and check over? For example:

I have to check my essay for mistakes.

I have to check my essay over mistakes.

Does over imply greater carefulness in checking something? If so, then why people sometimes say just check? Don't they want something to be checked carefully?

  • I think you might be confusing "to check (something)" with the phrasal verb "to look (something) over." We don't really say "check over." – TypeIA Dec 5 '19 at 8:42
  • I have definitly heard "check over". – Dmytro O'Hope Dec 5 '19 at 9:24
  • It does show up in some dictionaries, but it sounds funny to me, and checking Ngrams backs this up: "look over" is far more common. Just because you heard it doesn't make it right. – TypeIA Dec 5 '19 at 10:11
  • In school, I definitely would have frequently been told "make sure you check over your work (for mistakes)". Separating check over does make it sound awkward, though. It would never have been "make sure you check your work over". – xploshun Dec 5 '19 at 14:39
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    If I check something over, it implies to me that I'm reading it through for at least a second time. In other words, I'm making an additional pass for a specific purpose. In short, I think of over as being synonymous with again in this context. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Dec 10 '19 at 5:49
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They both mean the same thing, but check over specifically has connotations of proofreading and finding any errors, and also of checking the whole thing.

Over in this sense cannot replace for, though. It's still needed. If I were to say this phrase, I would not split check and over (in this context), as that sounds jarring.

I would suggest:

I have to check over my essay.

With for mistakes being implied, as in this definition from Merriam-Webster:

Definition of check over : to look at (something or someone) in a careful way to find problems, mistakes, etc.

checking the new cars over

The doctors checked him over for bruises.

Be sure to check over each item on the list for any mistakes.

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