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"Is it left-handed?" OR "Is it for left-handed?"

Which one is correct way to ask whether something is specially made for left-handed?

My homework:

A left-handed guitar

is a valid sentence and this assures me that my way of asking is proper.

I bought a guitar for you. ~ Thanks, but is it left-handed?

Somehow, to me, this way of asking seems better. Because left-handed is an adjective which in this context better take preposition for:

I bought a guitar for you. ~ Thanks, but is it for left-handed (like me, which is understood)?

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    If you want a noun, and think a left-handed person is a bit too long, there is another word, left-hander. Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 8:22

2 Answers 2

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The proper way to say it would be "Is it left-handed?"

If you say "is it FOR left-handed" then the question is, left-handed what? The thing that 'left-handed' is describing in the first example is "it" (the object you are asking about). In the second example, however, "Is it for left-handed", the thing being described as left-handed is missing, making the sentence sound incomplete and awkward. The object being described could be completed as "Is it for left handed writing/playing/people/children/drumming/etc." To make it correct you would have to include what is left-handed.

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    It may be interesting to note that this is a case of a transferred epithet: strictly speaking, it is not the guitar that is left-handed, but the person that will use it. It is very common and readily understood, but it may be confusing when you think of it too much. :)
    – oerkelens
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 8:29
  • How would you form a question out of It is a left-handed guitar? With an answer yes/no.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 8:48
  • I would say, "Is it a left-handed guitar?" or the slightly modified "Is the guitar for left-handed people?"
    – Peramia
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 8:51
  • This answer nails it. "I bought you some new golf clubs." "Thanks, but are they left-handed?" Sure, you can add the word clubs after left-handed, but it's quite unnecessary in informal conversation. Another informal way you could refer to the person instead of the clubs would be, "Thanks, but are they for lefties?"
    – J.R.
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 9:01
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    You could also ask "is it for the left-handed?" Note the the in there. That (at least to me) puts more than normal emphasis on the question, though. That also allows some more variation (usable by the left-handed, useful for the left-handed, etc.) Is it left-handed? is definitely the normal way to ask this.
    – derobert
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 10:31
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It's perfectly reasonable to describe an object designed to be used by left-handed people as itself being "left-handed". But, as discussed in Peramia's answer, "Is it for left-handed?" is an incomplete sentence because "left-handed" is an adjective. You could either say "Is it for left-handed people?" or "Is it for left-handers?"

"Is it for lefties" is rather informal and I probably wouldn't use it myself. I don't think it's at all offensive but it seems to be more common for left-handed people to use it to talk about themselves, and I'm a "righty". I would also avoid "Is it for the left-handed?" as, while grammatically correct, it feels rather laboured. Also, for example, disabled people tend to dislike being referred to as "the disabled" and "the left-handed" is the same kind of thing, though, again, rather less likely to cause any real offense.

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  • In the context of 'a beautiful flower', I may tell someone - I've bought a flower for you. ~ Is it beautiful?; Yes, it is. Just like you!. Beautiful is an adjective but still used that way.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 11:49
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    @MaulikV I don't understand your point. The question "Is it beautiful?" makes perfect sense: the adjective "beautiful" is applied to the pronoun "it". Likewise, in "Is it left-handed?", the adjective "left-handed" is being applied to the pronoun "it". But in "Is it for left-handed?", the adjective "left-handed" is not being applied to the pronoun "it". Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 12:00
  • mea culpa. I read it without for. However, I remember that some words don't take any article (especially physically challenged people--say--deaf). "Is it for deaf" is okay. However, it serves as a noun but somehow I am getting confused with left-handed.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 12:05
  • @MaulikV No, "Is it for deaf?" is not OK, for exactly the same reason that "Is it for left-handed?" is not OK. "Deaf" is an adjective. It can serve as a noun with the article ("the deaf") but, like disabled people, deaf people prefer to be called "deaf people" than "the deaf" Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 12:14
  • I had read a headline somewhere... "something for deaf". Not getting the link though I tried just now.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 12:32

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