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I would like to know if there is a difference in telicity:

  1. to run for the bus

  2. to run to the bus station

I am asking because "to run to the bus station" is telic, because there is definite endpoint. I feel "to run for the bus" is different, but I can't put my finger on it.

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2 Answers 2

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You are right that, when you run to the bus station, you are running to a particular place.

When you run for the bus, you are running to the bus stop, with the intention of getting there in time to catch the bus. We therefore use for in the sense of "having a purpose of" catching the bus.

Note that the Cambridge Dictionary also offers this meaning for for, though it's not about an endpoint but a general direction:

for preposition (TOWARDS)

towards; in the direction of:
They looked as if they were heading for the train station.
Just follow signs for the museum.
This time tomorrow we'll be setting off for the States.
It says this train is for (= going to stop at) Birmingham and Coventry only

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  • Is it possible to say "I have been running to the bus station" to explain why I am panting and sweating? Because it is possible with "I have been running for the bus".
    – anouk
    Mar 26, 2020 at 10:52
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    If you are still panting and sweating, it is likely you are at the bus station now, and it would be clumsy to say "to the bus station". You could say something like "I have been running to get here". Mar 26, 2020 at 13:22
  • @anouk, I don't think that present perfect is OK in this sentence, but comments aren't the right place to explain. Why don't you ask a question about it?
    – JavaLatte
    Mar 27, 2020 at 1:59
  • @ JavaLatte I did, but the question wasn't answered: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/241591/… I would really appreciate an explanation.
    – anouk
    Mar 27, 2020 at 10:14
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    Yes, correct. Other example: I have been drilling holes in the wall, but they are all done now. Mar 27, 2020 at 17:02
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From the Wikipedia article on telicity:

One common way to gauge whether an English verb phrase is telic is to see whether such a phrase as in an hour, in the sense of "within an hour", (known as a time-frame adverbial) can be applied to it.

Other phrases can be tested similarly; for example, walked home is telic, because "John walked home in an hour" is fine, while "John walked home for an hour" is bad, and walked around is atelic, because "John walked around in an hour" is bad, while "John walked around for an hour" is fine.

Both of these work, so both are telic.

to run for the bus in an hour

to run to the bus in an hour

The reason why they both work is more due to context than anything else.

For X identifies the reason of your running action, and to X identifies the target of your running action.

There are phrases like run for the hills -- the verb run lets for X carries the implication of to X. This is not necessarily true for other verbs of motion - walk for the bus will sound like you want to take a walk to make the bus happy or something similar, not walk to the bus.

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