8

"For Good" here is a noun and means

1-[noncount] : for morally good forces or influences

Teachers can be a strong force for good.

But, it also means

2-forever

She's gone for good

When I say "I will do yoga for good", it could mean "for morally good force" or "forever".

But, normally people say "I will do yoga for my own good" or "I will do yoga for the good of my health" instead of "I will do yoga for good".

Can I say "I will do yoga for good" to mean "I will do yoga for my own good"?

Also, when can we say "for good" to mean "forever", for example, "I will study/cook/dance/play football... for good"?

6
  • 1
    According to Lexico for good means Forever; definitively. It has a finality that makes it rather more suitable in "I've given up driving for good" than in "I've taken up cycling for good". We stop doing something for good more often than we start doing something for good. It is similar to "once and for all". Jan 9 at 5:57
  • @OldBrixtonian, also things like "I've settled in Melbourne for good". It fits what you said, implying I've stopped moving from place to place.
    – Peter
    Jan 9 at 6:31
  • 4
    The climactic song of the show Wicked is named ‘For Good’, and plays very deliberately on this ambiguity, exploring the beneficial and long-lasting influence we can have on one another. (The word ‘good’ and the phrases ‘make good’ and ‘goodness knows’ recur throughout the show, often commenting ironically on how deceptive appearances can be, and on how well-meaning actions don't always lead to beneficial outcomes.)
    – gidds
    Jan 9 at 13:16
  • 1
    For good is not a noun, but a prepositional phrase (PP). Good in itself is a noun, but not the whole phrase. Jan 9 at 17:56
  • 4
    The "forever" meaning of "for good" is better phrased as "permanently". It doesn't make sense to say, "I will do yoga permanently".
    – gotube
    Jan 10 at 6:43
36

To my (non-native, but fairly fluent) ear, "I will do yoga for good" sounds like you're perhaps planning to raise money for a charitable cause, in a way that somehow involves you doing yoga to attract donations. (Maybe you're livestreaming it?) Or, perhaps, you might believe that doing yoga can somehow make the world a better place just on its own, maybe by "transmitting healing vibrations" or "righting karmic imbalances" or something. Some people do believe such things.

In any case using the literal phrase "for good", in sense 1, with no additional specifiers, carries to my ear the implication that the "good" involved is somehow universal and absolute, applying at least in principle to all of mankind. In practice, what counts as such universal and absolute "good" for you will to some extent depend on your religious, moral and ideological beliefs, but common examples would include things like helping the poor and the ill, protecting vulnerable people from violence and oppression, cleaning up the environment or perhaps spreading (what you consider to be) the true faith that leads peoples' souls to eternal salvation.

If by "good" you actually mean something that only benefits yourself, such as your personal health, then that definitely needs an additional qualifier, since that's not the default meaning of the word. Something like "for my own good" or "for the good of my health" (or even just "for my health") would be fine.


As for the second meaning of "for good" that you quote (i.e. "forever"), it is mostly limited to the specific phrase "gone for good" and a few other analogous phrases involving (usually past participles of) verbs or adverbs describing movement or transformation.

So you might say something is "gone for good" or "back for good" (which is, notably, also the title of a very annoying earworm from the 1990s) or "lost for good" or even "broken for good" or "fixed for good". And you can even extend these idioms to active statements, like saying that you will "fix [something] for good" or "drive [someone] away for good". But all of these usages carry the implication that something or someone has (or will have) changed or moved somehow, and will stay that way.

In any case, "doing yoga" isn't an act of transformation or movement in this sense, so you cannot say in idiomatic English that you will "do yoga for good" to mean that you'll keep doing it forever — and if you do say that, people will likely not understand what you mean. What you could say, jokingly, is that you will get into a specific yoga pose for good, implying that you'll stay in that pose forever. But, of course, that would be silly.

11
  • 11
    As a native speaker myself, I agree with every word of this excellent answer.
    – TonyK
    Jan 9 at 18:19
  • 4
    "for good" meaning "forever", or more specifically "permanently", is very widespread in my dialect (native speaker, US south), and that was the first way I read it. The "for good [purposes]" reading didn't even come to mind until I read the post and learned that that was what they meant to say. Might be a thing that varies between dialects.
    – Hearth
    Jan 9 at 20:03
  • 3
    As a native speaker, I disagree with the basic premise of this argument. If someone says to me "I will do yoga for good", I would take that to mean "forever". Jan 9 at 23:19
  • 8
    Also, as a native speaker, I agree that the first interpretation that comes to mind is 'forever', but that doesn't make sense as a statement, so I would infer that the speaker/writer actually meant 'for good purposes'.
    – nekomatic
    Jan 10 at 8:49
  • 6
    Absolutely agree that "for good" carries a sense of finality that does not apply well to ongoing and intermittent actions. "I am going home for good" does not mean that I am continuously in a state of going home, it means that I am going home permanently. Similarly, I wouldn't expect "I am doing yoga for good" to mean that I am continuously in a state of doing yoga, but since one can't really do yoga permanently, I'd look for other interpretations like doing it for a good cause. Jan 10 at 14:53
8

Your analysis is correct. “For good” could mean “for positive reasons” or “forever” with any of those verbs.

If you intend the meaning to be “forever,” in my opinion it is slightly clearer and more idiomatic to phrase it with the word “keep” - if you say, “I will keep doing yoga for good,” it is clearer that you mean permanently.

As you noted, you can specify the other meaning unambiguously by writing something like “for my own good.”

8
  • 2
    I don't consider that definition 1 works in any sentence, only when talking about abstract ideas. With practical things, you have to say something like 'for my own good' or 'for the good of my health'. Jan 9 at 9:12
  • @KateBunting that's surprising because when I read the question title the only way I can interpret it is "I will do yoga for good!" like a hero taking up yoga for the good of the world. It is so strange to me to use "for good" to mean " I will do yoga forever". "I will do yoga once and for all!" bizarre Jan 9 at 13:31
  • @theonlygusti - Strange or not, that is one meaning of the expression. dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/for-good Jan 9 at 15:06
  • 1
    @kate bunting i understand "i will stop smoking for good" and it sounds p normal to me, but "i will start cycling for good" is weird in the same way "i will do yoga for good" is Jan 9 at 16:34
  • 1
    You can't "keep doing something for good" because 'for good' implies a finality, not a continuous action. From previous examples of 'going home for good' you cannot keep going home, once you get there you have to stop. At that point you are there for good… forever. Jan 10 at 19:04
7

Maybe this doesn't warrant a whole answer, but I feel it is worth saying. Both meanings of "for good" are used only in certain stock phrases.

The first is used most often in the specific phrase "force for good."

The second is used in the phrase "gone for good" to refer to a permanent departure or in the context of quitting some habit, e.g. "I'm off nicotine for good." Other uses are possible, but rare.

I don't think there's anything gramatically wrong with "I will do yoga for good," but I don't think it sounds like something a native speaker would say. Something like "I want to help people with yoga" or "I'm never going to stop doing yoga" (depending on your intended meaning) would sound more idiomatic.

5

When phrases are ambiguous, we often have to fall back on what seems most likely intended.

People don't tend to play football or cook, because of a belief that this will ensure they lead a virtuous morally ethical life. And if they meant their own benefit, it would be very usual to be clear "my own good" not just "for (some unspecified out-there) good".

So it's more likely there, that the meaning is an awkward "for the rest of my life" or at least "the foreseeable future and intending it permanently".

It's more difficult to interpret this, when the statement could be a moral statement.

  • I plan to take up feeding the poor for good
  • I want to save the environment for good
  • I want to follow (Jesus/Bible/Quran/Vedas) for good
  • I want to do yoga for good

But in these cases the best and perhaps only guides are, which meanings sound least awkward of all possible. Which ones would be more likely said another way if that was intended.

I think as a native speaker, if someone wanted to simply say they were now going to save the environment (or even follow Jesus) for ethical/moral reasons or their own benefit, and not imply more, they'd probably have said it a different way. Or at least it's sliiightly more likely they would have done so.

So I think in these cases yes it's very ambiguous but I'd also interpret them as "forever" and not "as a moral behaviour."

If time is implied to be limited, then probably you'd look at the other meaning, however

  • I plan to take 3 months off work for good
  • I plan to do 2 weeks Yoga after my surgery for good
  • I'm helping with Feed the Children's 2022 Christmas Appeal for good

Now it can't mean "forever" so it probably does mean "for my own good" in the first two, or "for morally good reasons" in the third.

So.....

Can I say "I will do yoga for good" to mean "I will do yoga for my own good"?

Yes but its still ambiguous, because its an ambiguous way to say it that most people will intuitively avoid. So pick a better wording. The aim of communication usually fails, if people will be confused and unsure what is meant.

The problem here is that "good" and "my own good" are at least 3 different things here:

  • forever
  • generic moral sense of rightness
  • my personal benefit

Also, when can we say "for good" to mean "forever", for example, "I will study/cook/dance/play football... for good"?

Generally when a sense of permanence is already part of the expectation of the act, so it fits in with that and confirms/emphasises it.

  • I'm quitting work for good!
  • I'm quitting smoking for good!
  • I'm quitting the sales business and becoming a teacher, for good
  • This toothache/pandemic has better be over for good!
  • Let's sort your car engine problem out for good! (you usually want a problem sorted forever,though this one could mean both)
1
2

Your sentence is not idiomatic and no native speaker would understand it. Here are some things you could say.

  1. I will do yoga for my own good. (I wish to improve my health)

2a. I will do yoga for the good of others.

2b. I will do yoga for the general good. (It will benefit other people somehow if I do yoga)

  1. I will do yoga forever. (I will always do yoga in the future)
0

I am writing this simply to back up other answers with my own context.

Using "for good" in the moral sense:

I would never assume you meant a personal form of "good", as in "this is good for my health", because this isn't the common belief. Doing something for your personal well-being isn't often seen as morally good. In fact, the underlying definition at stake here is the same as the "doing good" versus "doing well" debate.

My assumption on reading this is that you are doing something "for the common good" or perhaps "for charity". Perhaps you intend to teach yoga for free, or are doing a fundraiser in which a group of people retain yoga poses for a long period of time.

Using "for good" in the forever sense:

In my experience, the unambiguous form of this "for good" refers to a status remaining indefinitely, not an action happening continuously.

i.e. The action is not happening forever, it is the result of the action that remains forever.

Repeating some examples used above:

  • "I'm quitting smoking for good" means that the state of the world after I perform the action of quitting (i.e. me being cigarette free) will be final.
  • "I'm coming home for good" means that after I have arrived home then I will never live elsewhere. (This is metaphorical!)
  • "Let's sort your car engine problem out for good" is not implying that you will be stuck with a mechanic for your entire life, but that the car engine will end up in a "repaired" state for good.
  • "Hopefully this pandemic will be ending for good" is referring to the process of ending (continuous) but it is the outcome of that process that we want to be permanent, and definitely not the process itself!

Note that the reason for the phrase is that there is an emphasised point of change. This point is easy to capture in the unambiguous verbs (quit, leave, complete, end, drop, etc.).

The one exception is when the whole sentence is referring to the change of status:

  • "I'll be locked up for good!" means that I will retain my status of "being locked up" forever... oh no!

My interpretation of "I'm doing yoga for good."

I would have difficulty deciding what you meant by "I am doing yoga for good." Technically, you could intend either meaning, though neither is an idiomatic phrase where I am from.

I would more likely assume you meant "forever", and that you meant that you wanted to "be in the state of regularly doing yoga". This just feels more likely to me than a charity event, even though I would also feel like you would be better off using the phrase "(regularly) from now on".

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .