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The headline from an article in the NY Times is:

For Mr. Cawthorn, a pro-Trump North Carolina congressman, youthful brashness that helped him win his seat now strikes some voters as recklessness."

The way I interpreted this headline is "for/to Mr. Cawthorn his youthful brashness made voters now think of him as a reckless man", but after reading through the article I realized the word "for" has no role. By reading the headline. I thought the "for Mr. Cawthorn" part implies that the realization of "voters now think of him as a reckless man" was a a thought of him (Mr. Cawthorn). So what could the word "for" possibly refer to?

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  • It's the same use of for as in this sentence, Despite her sound suppressing earphones, the music was too loud for Anna. The prepositional phrase has been moved to the front of sentence, which is normal English usage. Moving it to the front of the sentence makes it easy for the reader to see that that the topic is Mr. Cawthorn. We can do the same thing with the earlier example, For Anna, the music was too loud despite her sound suppressing earphones.
    – EllieK
    Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 14:37

2 Answers 2

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The 'for' is a way of getting Mr Cawthorn's name to the front of the sentence, to mark him as the topic. It's like 'with regards to' or 'in the case of'. If you take out the 'for', you would have 'Mr Cawthorn youthful brashness' which is not grammatical.

Edit: I hope this answers your question.

Usually, the first part of the sentence would relate better to the rest of the sentence. E.g. For Mr Cawthorn, youthful brashness is fast becoming a liability.

This sentence is not that well-structured. It starts "For Mr Cawthorn,". This is just to introduce Mr Cawthorn's name. It's a headline, so it needs to say what the topic of the article is. The topic for this article is going to be Mr Cawthorn, and the headline lets us know that immediately. It would be great if the rest of the sentence followed on from that opening a little better, but, sadly, it doesn't.

The writer has a lot of ideas to cram into this headline, and they want to use a dramatic verb like "strike", and they don't have all day to come up with a good sentence. They have basically just shoved everything into a big, long sentence, and the first part ("For... congressman") doesn't flow well with the second part ("youthful ... recklessness"). It's an ugly sentence; I had to read it a few times to understand it. I am not sure if it is actually ungrammatical.

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  • by choosing to use the "For" don't you think semantically a word is missing to connect the for and the "youthful brashness"?? Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 11:25
  • sorry, Lynera, I don't understand your question.
    – Evene
    Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 12:30
  • "For" relates to Mr Cawthorn. "Youthful brashness" also relates to Mr Cawthorn. "For" and "youthful brashness" don't really relate directly to each other.
    – Evene
    Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 12:41
  • as you've stated the "For" and "youthful brashness" do not relate directly to "Mr Cawthorn". So what i'm asking is don't you think there should be a word making this conection direct? as said Colleen V in aa comment to other answer. he used the word "Unfortunately" so "Unfortunately For Mr. Cawthorn, a pro-Trump North Carolina congressman, youthful brashness..." don't you thinh without this extra word the setence lose its meaning a little giving room to other interpretaion? Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 13:04
  • thank you very much, your edition of the answer helped me a lot. I was coming to it from the semantical point of view, that is why I was needing the extra word I've mentioned, "Unfortunately " in this case to make more sense: "Unfortunately For Mr. Cawthorn..." Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 14:33
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It isn't referring to anything. It's bad writing. The construction is similar to one I see from my students: use a noun and precede it with a preposition like "with," "in" "for" and then add a clause or phrase that renders the prepositon-noun redundant:

With cryogenics, a problem people face is the high cost. At the very least, this is wordy and slack. A better alternative would be "A problem people face with cryogenics is high cost." One could also say "The reason cryogenics isn't more popular is its high cost." That focuses the sentence better. This subhead could be rewritten: Many voters now see Cawthorn's brashness as recklessness. That is just one option. I'm not saying it is the only way or that it's the greatest phrasing ever.

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  • @Fearless Grammar, the "with" in you example: "With cryogenics, a problem people face is the high cost. " has a role. the "for" in mine i can see being gone and the gist never change. when you rewriten your example you switched place of word "with" and kept the gist. Can't do that with my example, right? Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 18:39
  • I reworte it without a "with." Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 18:59
  • @Fearless Grammar, "A better alternative would be "A problem people face with cryogenics is high cost." One could also say "The reason cryogenics isn't more popular is its high cost."" the first rewriting used th "with" the second didn't. Get it? Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 19:07
  • @Fearless Grammar, I'm sorry. I didn't try to tel yo what is what. just tried to nudge you to my point. and maybe start a constructive debate around it, that helps me to learn more Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 19:54
  • @FearlessGrammar - You teach English?
    – EllieK
    Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 15:22

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