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"The brothers were fighting over/for a slice of pizza."

I've seen people use both for expressing pretty much the same thing. But here's something I need to know. When I say 'someone's fighting for a slice of pizza,' it sounds to me like they are fighting to decide who gets to eat it.

But when I say 'someone's fighting over a slice off pizza,' it sounds to me like it can be either to decide who gets to eat it or it could be that one of the brothers ate it and the now they are fighting because the other brother wanted to eat it too.

Could anyone please help me understand the difference?

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    It depends on the context. If the slice of pizza is on the table in front of them, they are fighting over it. If it is the prize in a contest, they are fighting for it. Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 9:44
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    It is possible that over could mean "one of the brothers ate it and now they are fighting because the other brother wanted to eat it too", but that's not the idiomatic meaning. When I see "fighting over a slice of pizza" I automatically think "fighting over an existing slice of pizza that they both want."
    – stangdon
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 11:14
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    My first thought was that a fight for it is a struggle to be the one who gets it, while a fight over it is a quarrel of which it is the subject - so I'm effectively agreeing with you. However, @WeatherVane's interpretation shows that there isn't a hard-and-fast distinction. Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 11:44
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    You are right. The over is problematic, but usually it means that they are fighting to see who will eat it. Context really helps here. If the prior sentence stated that one brother ate the last slice of pizza, then over would mean that was the reason for the fight. Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 15:25
  • Can you say 'fighting for' if one of the brothers ate the pizza and now they are fighting because the other brother wanted it too? I feel like 'fight for' sounds odd here since there's nothing to fight for as the other brother already ate the pizza.
    – Ashraf
    Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 10:26

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I think you're correct in your interpretation.

If the brothers are fighting over a slice of pizza:

  • The slice of pizza is the source of their argument.
  • The most logical assumption given the lack of context would be to assume that one brother caused the argument by eating the slice.
  • However, the argument could be about anything related to the slice. For example, one brother could claim that it has extra sauce, and the other brother might say it has extra cheese. Or one might say it came from a pizzeria, and the other might say that it's from a frozen pizza.

If they are fighting for a slice of pizza:

  • The pizza hasn't been eaten yet (otherwise they wouldn't be fighting).
  • It could be that the pizza hasn't even been cooked yet.
  • The pizza is presumably the prize that goes to the winner of the fight.

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