She indicated or beckoned for him to retrace his steps and come in.

I came across the above piece probably written on an online English newspaper, but I'm not sure.

  1. Is for correct after beckoned?

  2. How does for interfere with the intransitiveness of that verb in this sentence?

  • What do you mean by "the transitiveness of that verb"?
    – Mistu4u
    Mar 20, 2013 at 19:18
  • 1
    The for preposition doesn't seem to serve a purpose here. See the sentence without the preposition. 'She indicated or beckoned him to retrace his steps and come in'. Mar 20, 2013 at 19:20
  • @Mist, yes, when I wrote the question I was wondered if the transitive usage of "beckon" were compatible with a preposition just after it.
    – user114
    Mar 20, 2013 at 19:21
  • @Mist, however, since I'm not so good in English language, nor in grammar of any language, included the mine, I'm not sure if in that sentence "beckon" is used as a transitive verb :)
    – user114
    Mar 20, 2013 at 19:24

1 Answer 1


For [PERSON-objective case] to [VERB] clauses like this are often used to express a desired purpose or result; this is equivalent to that he should retrace &c.

You might replace beckoned here with gestured or motioned or stamped her foot or anything of the sort.

As you surmise, beckon is here used intransitively; him, although the subject of to retrace, takes the objective case as the object of the preposition for, not as the indirect object of beckon.

  • I'm curious to know how different they are in both sentences "I beckoned him to retrace his steps" and "I beckoned for him to retrace his steps". I surmises the former says "I directly gave a signal to him to retrace his steps", but the latter says "I gave a signal to someone and the someone passed on my signal to him". To sum up, I think whether I beckoned directly or indirectly is the main difference between them.
    – GKK
    Jul 28, 2018 at 3:11
  • @EvaristeGalois No. For in these cases acts as the subordinator introducing an infinitival clause, just as that is the subordinator for finite clauses, and like that it is commonly omitted with complement clauses. Its presence or absence doesn't affect the sense. Jul 28, 2018 at 10:48
  • Excuse me for not having checked on my comment carefully before commenting it. There was a mistake in conveying my thought on the former sentence. I get to rethink them as the former says "I directly gave a signal to him so as to have him retrace his steps", but the latter says "I gave a signal to someone so as to have the someone have him retrace his steps". On this second thought, am I grasping the sematical difference correctly?
    – GKK
    Jul 29, 2018 at 21:03
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    @EvaristeGalois The version with for permits an 'indirect' interpretation, but does not entail it. The recipient of the gesture is not specified or limited... By the same token, however, the version without for implicates direct communication, but does not entail it. For instance, if we read that "Eisenhower ordered troops to Little Rock" we do not suggest that Eisenhower issued the order personally to the troops of the 101st Airborne (in fact he issued the order to the Army Chief of Staff). Jul 30, 2018 at 0:01

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