Clearly Glass is no longer accurate when he says "there is no structure at all -the structure defines itself from moment to moment", for it is precisely the expectation that something different will happen next time around that motivates our perception of the music.

What does the function of for here? I looked up OALD to find sentences with "say for" and there was none except this one:

I'll say this for them, they're a very efficient company.

Nonetheless, I believe for in the block-quoted sentence has a different function than it has in the aforementioned sentence.

Does for in the block-quote mean Glass said the sentence in the quotation marks ("there is no structure at all...") agrees with the sentence following for ("it is precisely..."), or to disagree with it and/or exaggerate it? What does the sentence structure suggest and what is the function of for here?


  • 2
    Forget says for. Substitute since in the place of for, for that is its purpose there: Glass is pretending he has no structure since we expect music to surprise us (within its structure). Structure and surprise do not contradict, they tease each other. The part after for contradicts Glass's claim. Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 15:10
  • [I'll say this] for [him] = in support of. As opposed to, say, about - which could be followed by a negative or positive statement. Probably not a "neutral" statement though, since one would have little reason to explicitly announce that you're gonna make a neutral statement in such contexts. Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 15:12
  • 2
    The author is arguing with the Glass statement. Glass says his piece has no structure at all, it jumps around carefree. That's untrue for the reason that repetition and variation in music are normal. Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 15:23
  • 1
    There is some trouble reaching the quote in the originally quoted source, so I updated the question with another, where the entire article is available.
    – jimm101
    Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 16:58
  • No; it has the same function in both cases, i.e. head of a preposition phrase. "For" is one of the most polysemous of all the main prepositions of English with a plethora of subtly different meanings, as well as a handful of grammaticised uses. In your first example, it expresses reason, rather like the preposition "because" does. In the second it means, roughly, "in support of". Meanings aside, syntactically, in both your examples, "for" is a preposition functioning as head of a preposition phrase.
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 18:32

2 Answers 2


"For" means many things and has many uses, but in this case, "for" (see definition 34) is used as a coordinating conjunction that means "because."


34. because.

  • I'd say it 's a preposition functioning as head of the PPs "for it is precisely the expectation that ..." and "I'll say this for them,...". The conjunction (subordinator) "for" only occurs in to- infinitival clauses that have a subject, e.g. "For Ed to lose his temper like that is highly unusual".
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 18:48

In this syntactic context "for" is considered usually to be a conjunction of subordination (meaning "because", not used much except in literary text), although some will call it rather a conjunction of coordination.

There is a serious argument for classifying "for" as a subordinating conjunction (CoGEL § 13.18).

13.18 Coordination-subordination gradient
Table 13.18 displays the gradient from the central coordinators and and or to subordinators like if and because, with but, for, and so that on the gradient. The conjuncts yet, so, and nor are added to the Table, because, as we have seen, they in some respects resemble coordinators. The six features of and and or noted in 13.7-17 have provided six criteria used in constructing the matrix. If an item satisfies a criterion, this is indicated by a '+' in the relevant cell. If it fails to satisfy the criterion, '-' is entered. The combination '±' takes care of cases, explained in the previous discussion, where the item satisfies the criterion only under certain conditions. The six criteria to be applied to each item are :
(a) It is immobile in front of its clause.
(b) A clause beginning with it is sequentially fixed in relation to the previous clause, and hence cannot be moved to a position in front of that clause.
(c) It does not allow a conjunction to precede it.
(d) It links not only clauses, but predicates and other clause constituents.
(e) It can link subordinate clauses.
(f) It can link more than two clauses, and when it does so all but the final instance of the linking item can be omitted.

Table 13.18 Coordination-conjunct-subordination gradients

(a) (b) (c) (d) (e) (f)
+ + + + + + coordinators and, or
+ + + + ± - but
+ + x + - - conjuncts yet, so, nor
- + - - - - however, therefore
+ + + - - - subordinators for, so that
+ ± - - - - if, because

It can be seen that the criteria that make "and" and "or" true coordinators fail in the case of "for". "For" is therefore more akin to because", which is definitely at the subordinator end of the gradient.

(CoGEL§2.60) [...] there is a scale relating coordinating and subordinating conjunctions, such that and and if represent clear cases of each category, whereas for is in an intermediate position:
Nevertheless, for is closer to if in its syntactic behaviour than to "and" , and can reasonably be classed as a peripheral subordinator.

Note     "For" is not a preposition because the prepositional complement is "characteristically a noun phrase, a nominal wh-clause or a nomial -ing clause" (CoGEL § 9.1). There is not a complement in what follows "for"; instead there is a finite verb form ("is"), which is the mark of a finite clause; this syntax can only justify "for" as a subordinator (or a coordinator, according to those who ould rather treat it as such).

  • -1 for a poor answer. The "for" in the OP's example is a preposition functioning as head of the PPs "for it is precisely ...", and "for them". Note that preps like "for" take not only NP complements but also clauses. "For" is only a subordinator when it occurs in to- infinitival clauses that have a subject, e.g. "For Ed to lose his temper like that is highly unusual". Elsewhere it's a preposition.
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 9:54
  • CGEL states that "for" is a preposition that can take finite clause complements. It gives this example: He avoided answering [for he was afraid of implicating his wife].
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 15:15
  • @BillJ CGEL is aberrant on this point. See this: "Prepositional phrases have a preposition as the central element of the phrase, i.e. as the head of the phrase. The remaining part of the phrase is called the prepositional complement, or sometimes the "object" of the preposition. In English and many other Indo-European languages it takes the form of a noun phrase, such as a noun, pronoun, or gerund, possibly with one or more modifiers."... M-W
    – LPH
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 20:20
  • Not in English, which permits a wide range of complements to prepositions. "For" is clearly a preposition, much like "because", both of which take finite clause complements.
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 6:42
  • @BillJ With all the good will I might muster to try and accept your point of view, I don't believe I'll ever be able to see any logic in it; I see absolutely no logic in it.
    – LPH
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 20:43

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