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Of course, the option "spend on" is more wide-spread, but ngram showed some cases in which "for" is used:

For this reason, you need to do some careful planning as you decide what percentage of your gross sales you can realistically afford to spend for advertising.

OR

The money these families spend for their needs ripples through our economies

I wonder if "for" really may be used sometimes..Is this correct? What meaning does it possess?

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    It exists, because you've found examples of it. Are you asking if it's a common idiom?
    – barbecue
    Dec 21, 2022 at 14:28
  • Is it a really common idiom and how different is it from "spend on"? Aaand may it be considered a mistake? Dec 21, 2022 at 14:30
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    Have you checked Google Ngram and run a comparison of "spend for" and "spend on"? Not only would the results show if "spend for" is used but also show its usage frequency in comparison to "spend on," so, for example, if it were to reveal a very low incidence of "spend for" and a much, much higher incidence of "spend on," you might reasonably infer that you may be able to get away with saying "spend for," but the clear preference would be "spend on." Dec 21, 2022 at 14:40
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    Moreover, Google Ngram allows you to drill down to the individual results that create the data the Ngram reflects to see if the usage is the same as what you mean, like if "spend for" is only ever used when the object of "for" is a specific item received in exchange, your example using "their needs" as the object of "for" may not apply, so Ngram results that by merely looking at the graph may superficially appear as though it would be acceptable to use "spend for" like "spend on" may in actuality indicate otherwise if the individual results don't show it used like how you plan to use it. Dec 21, 2022 at 14:48

2 Answers 2

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In a broad sense, any verb (action) can be followed by the preposition "for" in the sense of "to cause or result in". There's no grammatical reason why "spend" (give money) can't be followed by "for". In common usage though, there is often an intervening word or phrase that qualifies "spend":

I spend too much for fast food

Don't spend a lot for little return

Why spend for things that are free?

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It's not easy to find a dictionary that licenses 'spend for', but Collins includes:

spend [in American English] ...

  • We spend more for living expenses now.

It is interesting that this isn't included under the 'British English' entry, and I feel it is more of an Americanism.

Google 2-grams show that both colligations are used, with 'spend on' probably the more common:

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Though false positives are of course possible, I found less than 20% in an admittedly quick check of the 1950 - 90 examples provided by Google ngrams. Some pertinent examples are:

  • How Much Do You Spend for Hunting and Fishing? --.
  • ... if you had a limited number of dollars to spend for survey and a limited number of dollars to spend for fire protection, ...
  • About how much did you spend for food, restaurant meals, liquor, snacks, candy, ice cream etc ...
  • ... how much money we would have to spend for personnel, how much we would have to spend for maintenance, how much we could spend for new aircraft ...
  • what we propose to spend for fee appraisals ...
  • They certainly do not have $33,000 per family to spend for a house.

What is the meaning of 'for' in 'spend for'? It's merely an alternative for 'on' here. 'On' is the 'laying on' metaphor, throwing cash onto an imaginary table. 'For' is perhaps the more logical if less usual choice, 'for the purpose of ...'. 'We spend more for the purpose of living at a reasonable standard now.'

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