I recently said,

I should probably let him explain for himself.

Because he knows better what situation he's in. I have but a vague understanding.

I know that normally one would say "explain himself," but is there no way to justify the above-mentioned phrasing? Like, there's a phrase "to stand up for something." Can't "for" be used there in a similar sense? Although it's not like he has to argue, just explain the situation. Or some other reasoning?

1 Answer 1


To explain oneself has a more specific meaning of clarifying or defending one's own previous words or actions that have been called into question. Imagine a teacher reprimanding a student and demanding an explanation:

Why didn't you turn in the homework assignment? Explain yourself!

For would not make sense in that context. To explain something for oneself probably means doing it in your own words, without anybody's help. Speaking for yourself means nobody else is speaking for you (regardless of what you are trying to say).

  • It's not clear if you think that "to explain for himself" sounds altogether weird in any context. One way to interpret your words would be, '"To explain for himself" would come off as weird, but will suggest that he does it in his own words, without anybody's help. And that "for" will play a role similar to that in "to speak for yourself."' In that case it makes some sense in my context (I want him to explain it himself, because I don't fully understand the situation he's in), but most likely sounds at least uncommon or just weird.
    – x-yuri
    Jul 24, 2021 at 1:53
  • If somebody is giving an explanation without someone else's help, you can say he is explaining for himself.
    – nschneid
    Aug 1, 2021 at 15:32

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