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This latter fact could not simply be a conjunctive fact, combining a finite number of facts about the whiteness of each individual swan. For even if a is white, and b is white, and c is white, and so on, for each individual swan, a, b, c, etc., it does not follow that all swans are white unless we are also given that a, b, c, etc. are all the swans there are; and this itself is a general fact. <Lowe, E. J., 2008, "Metaphysics", in The Routledge Companion to Twentieth Century Philosophy, p. 445>

Friendship, for example, is valuable in this way. For while friendship is undoubtedly useful, and therefore of instrumental value, one would be missing out on something important if one didn’t appreciate the fact that having friends is good for its own sake. Indeed, someone who only values their friends because it serves their wider interests arguably doesn’t have any real friends. <Pritchard, D., 2018, What is this thing called knowledge?, p. 10>

I have trouble comprehending these "for" in bold. I think these are conjunctions. However, as far as I know, unlike "because", "for" as a conjunction is not placed at the beginning of a sentence. How should I get it?

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    Why do you think that 'for', meaning 'because' cannot start a sentence? Commented Jan 21, 2023 at 22:52
  • It's a very high register turn of phrase and every so slightly old fashioned.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 21, 2023 at 22:59
  • No: not a conjunction but a preposition, here similar in meaning to "because".
    – BillJ
    Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 9:05

2 Answers 2

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Yes, "for" would usually be considered a coordinating conjunction in your examples. (It is one of the so-called "FANBOYS" coordinating conjunctions.)

As you note, many sources (especially more traditional ones) recommend that you not place a FANBOYS conjunction at the beginning of a sentence. Nevertheless, it is very common for English writers to begin sentences with those conjunctions, and many grammarians (I believe the great majority, though I don't have any statistics) consider doing so to be perfectly acceptable. That is what the authors have done in your examples.

When "because" is used as a conjunction, it is used only as a subordinator (never as a coordinator), so the restriction doesn't apply to it, as you note.

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It's called a coordinating conjunction.

I figured this out from dictionary.com, which provided this example:

Meaning:

  • for the following reason
  • because
  • seeing that

Example:

I couldn't stay, for the area was violent.

Merriam-Webster's example:

the bill should be listed as paid, for I mailed it in on time

Freedictionary.com has some interesting (if not self-contradicting?) usage note:

Today this use of for is rare in speech and informal writing, and it often lends a literary tone or note of formality.

[...]

But like a coordinating conjunction, for has a fixed position in the sentence, and its clause cannot be transposed to precede the superordinate clause containing the main idea. It is ungrammatical in present-day English to say "For they shall inherit the earth: blessed are the meek."

Perhaps because of this ambiguity in function, for is treated variously with regard to punctuation. Sometimes it begins a dependent clause and follows a comma, and sometimes it begins an independent clause (as if it were a conjunctive adverb like moreover) and follows a semicolon or period (when it is capitalized as the first word of a new sentence).

All treatments are acceptable in standard usage. The difference is really one of emphasis: starting a new sentence with for tends to call more attention to the thought that it introduces.

Freedictionary.com also mentioned the slight possibility that for may get used also in the role of a subordinating conjunction, but when searching for and visiting webpages that explore these definitions, one finds that pages listing coordinating conjunctions always list for, and pages listing subordinating conjunctions never list for.

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  • The "for" in the OP's example is a preposition. "For" also belongs to the word class subordinator, where it introduces to- infinitval clauses that contain a subject, as in For Ed to behave like that is highly unusual.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 9:09
  • @BillJ thefreedictionary.com/for has a very rich set of examples; could you please help identifying the example there where for is being presented in the role of a preposition and behaves like in OP's examples?
    – Levente
    Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 10:20
  • @BillJ also, in your first comment, your example is "For Ed to behave like that [...]". But it's clear that "For even if a is white, and b is white, [...]" and "For while friendship is undoubtedly useful, [...]" are instances of a different function. "For Ed to behave" is not relevant here.
    – Levente
    Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 10:29
  • Dictionaries are not the place to go for grammar. However, this one is pretty good (it's largely compiled by grammarians) link
    – BillJ
    Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 11:34
  • @BillJ on that page the example "He was angry, for he had never been called such terrible names before." is listed under the function "Preposition". Every other source lists that under "coordinating conjunction". The only other function indicated on that page is "Subordinator". "Coordinator" is not present at all. This is in stark contrast with everything I found a.) on more reputable websites b.) on a large number of sufficiently reputable further sources. From these indicators I conclude that the source you linked proved itself to be unreliable, or in best case, of inconsistent quality.
    – Levente
    Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 11:41

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