In The Other Side of the Hedge by E. M. Forster:

“People always are astonished at meeting each other. All kinds come through the hedge, and come at all times—when they are drawing ahead in the race, when they are lagging behind, when they are left for dead. I often stand near the boundary listening to the sounds of the road—you know what they are—and wonder if anyone will turn aside. It is my great happiness to help someone out of the moat, as I helped you. For our country fills up slowly, though it was meant for all mankind.

What does "for" in the bolded sentence mean? In my comprehension the bolded sentence should mean:"Though our country was meant for all mankind, it still fills up slowly." But then "for" seems out of place.

1 Answer 1


This version of for is only used in literature and high rhetoric. It means "because". See the second definition here.

However, "for" operates grammatically a bit differently than "because", in that it can only be used to conclude a point. If the president, giving a speech, said:

We will persevere, for we are a great nation.

That would sound fine, and it would be equivalent to:

We will persevere, because we are a great nation.

But if he were to say:

For we are a great nation, we will persevere.

That would sound wrong, even though it works fine if you substitute "because" for "for". (Although I suppose this could be interpreted as two independent clauses questionably separated by a comma rather than a semicolon, but I digress.)

Now that I've explained what it means, I'm left to explain how it works in Forster's example. The suggestion here is that the man was happy to help the narrator out of the moat, and the reason for that is that the country fills up slowly. Having read this story, I can confirm that the reasoning here is a bit abstract, perhaps intentionally so. There's a suggestion that there is still a lot of room to be filled up on the other side of the hedge, so perhaps it is a good thing to help people come over. But given that this usage of "for" is so rhetorical in nature, it almost doesn't register that the logical connection is somewhat elusive.

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