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I can't sleep for the cold.

I wonder: Does "the cold " here refer to "a mild, very common illness" or "the cold weather"?

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    Some of your examples sentences with for seem a bit contrived. Without context one cannot be sure, but I would assume that here "cold" refers to temperature rather than health. I would say "I can't sleep because of the cold" or "because I am cold".
    – oerkelens
    May 12, 2014 at 7:28
  • Doesn't sound contrived to me. Perfectly good idiomatic English, if a little dated. Jun 8, 2020 at 12:30

1 Answer 1

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Without further context, the second seems to be the unmarked (usual) reading:

I can't sleep because of the cold [weather]

If it were because of illness, I would expect

I can't sleep for a cold
                  ^

... because it's non-specific. For specific ailments:

I can't sleep for the flu/gout/gout
                  ^
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    Why a cold is non-specific ,but the flu/gout are specific?
    – user48070
    May 13, 2014 at 1:28
  • @user48070 It's to do with whether you think the person you're talking to (or writing for) knows what you're talking about. While "a cold" (Collins) refers to a collection of symptoms, flu and gout refer to specific conditions. It might be somewhat idiomatic.
    – jimsug
    May 14, 2014 at 12:13

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