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What are the similarities and differences? In the example below, what would be the difference between using “provide for” and (just) “provide”?

  1. provide: Make available for use; supply
  2. provide for: Make adequate preparation for (a possible event)
Source: Oxford Dictionaries, Definition of “provide”

It turns out that there are contractual answers as well: creditors can provide for these possibilities in advance, not between themselves but by taking security interests in your assets—in other words, a right to take back your property directly if you run out of money.
Source: p 107, The Legal Analyst, Ward Farnsworth

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    "creditors can enable the use of these possibilities" but do not provide the possibilities, for example the government provides – Sammaye Aug 1 '14 at 8:40
  • I think no one can provide possibilities! :) – Maulik V Aug 1 '14 at 10:05
  • I have edited your question to refer to the definition of “provide for” that your example uses, but this may have been the main source of your confusion so I will comment here as well. Despite the general context of law, this use does not follow the format of definition 2.2. That is a specialized use which states that a law contains provisions (specifies methods and/or funding) intended to achieve a specified effect. In your example, “provides for” is used in its usual way. – Tyler James Young Aug 1 '14 at 16:23
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In your quote, the meaning of provide for is to act to prepare for something (Wiktionary, verb sense 2).

We may rephrase the quotation this way:

It turns out that there are contractual answers as well: creditors can prepare for these possibilities in advance, not between themselves but by taking security interests in your assets—in other words, a right to take back your property directly if you run out of money.

Let's look at an example sentence:

The architect provided for (= prepared for) the possibility of storms by strengthening the abutments.

If you substitute provide in the place of provide for:

The architect provided the possibility of storms by strengthening the abutments.

the resulting sentence is absurd: stronger abutments are somehow supposed to invoke storms.

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TL;DR -

A subject [noun] "provides" some thing or purpose [direct object, also a noun].

But

You "provide for" a target/purpose/circumstance [indirect object].

You "provide [a perhaps implied/unspecified noun] for" a [perhaps conditional, future, or abstract] target/purpose/circumstance.

Long Version:

When you "provide" something, the [noun] being provided is the subject of the sentence, and the result/outcome is the direct object. X provides Y. Ask: "What does the thing provide?"

A house provides shelter.

(S)A house (V)provides (D.O)shelter.

My job provides [me with] income.

This answer might (not?) provide clarity :)

"Providing for" something indicates the purpose or desired outcome, with the "what/how" for reaching that outcome perhaps implied or omitted.

The desired outcome or target receives the action, and is the object of the preposition "for," making it the indirect object. Ask: "For whom is the man's job providing?" For his family.

There could be a 2nd ("modal"?) verb in addition to "to provide/providing."

His job provides [income & other implied comforts] for his family.

His job allows him to provide [income & other implied comforts] for his family.

The contract provides [safeguards] for these circumstances.

The contract must provide [safeguards] for these circumstances.

A reason given in the U.S. Constitution for establishing the country is to "provide [a military] for the common defense."

Aside from all this, you also have "provided that..." as a conditional, where what follows describes what must happen in order for the stated outcome to occur.

You will get that raise, provided that you win us this contract.

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