Which sentence is usable in English when you are going to clap your hands in order to show your approval for instance when you enjoy the performance of a football player:

  • The coach clapped for him.
  • The coach applauded for him.

I think both verbs are used improperly here. I would be thankful if you could suggest me the correct verb in the proper grammatical structure or a fix expression which customarily is used in this sense.

  • 2
    The first suggests the player wasn't capable of clapping himself & had someone else do it for him. The second is better, but colloquially, you can applaud or clap someone, it doesn't need the 'for'. Clap has in very recent times, gained the subordinate [& oft times unspoken…] 'golf' clap, which would be a negative connotation Dec 23, 2014 at 21:05
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    on second thoughts - lose the 'for' in all cases; it makes it seem like they are incapable of clapping themselves Dec 23, 2014 at 21:09
  • But whereas one can only clap and clapping by itself doesn't imply an approval or a sense of encouragement and whereas 'applaud' has an implication of approval, I guess "applaud somebody" is far more clearer than "clap" in this sentence. Though as you mentioned, both can be used and both are correct and e.g. a coach can "clap a player" or "applaud a player" with the same meaning. Did I get you well? :)
    – A-friend
    Dec 23, 2014 at 21:27
  • applaud conveys more sense of approval; it's used for theatre actors, sportsmen [including golfers]. Clapping is the act of banging the palms together to make a noise, applause is the accolade imparted by that action. Dec 23, 2014 at 21:30
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    @Tetsujin - Interesting. I agree that the second should read The coach applauded him (no for), but the first reads fine as-is: The coach clapped for him.
    – J.R.
    Dec 23, 2014 at 22:00

5 Answers 5


"The coach clapped for him" and "The coach applauded him" both sound natural to my (American) ear. "The coach applauded for him" does not sound as natural to me, but is still understandable and grammatically correct.

  • Thank you very much Jasper' although using 'for' doesn't make the sentence incorrect, but I guess the most common way is the version without the preposition 'for'; right?:)
    – A-friend
    Dec 23, 2014 at 21:42
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    I agree with this. Also, I think applauded is more readily used in a figurative sense. In other words, The coach applauded him could imply physical clapping, or it might simply mean "voiced approval," particularly in a sentence like, The coach applauded his team's efforts. The dictionaries seem to back me on that (see Macmillan, Collins, e.g.).
    – J.R.
    Dec 23, 2014 at 22:03
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    My American ear agrees with Jasper's: "clap for someone" or "applaud someone" sound like you are expressing approval. Also "applaud for" sounds like it should be followed by a duration: "The audience applauded for ten minutes straight after the beautiful performance. "Clap someone" sounds like you hit them (e.g. "The coach clapped his star player on the back as they walked into the locker room")
    – Adam
    Dec 23, 2014 at 22:04
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    @A-friend -- "Clap <someone>" means to slap them, but in a friendly way (or at least not in a mean way). The meaning (of the verb) does not depend on whether you say "Clap someone" or "Clap somebody" or "Clap Fred".
    – Jasper
    Dec 23, 2014 at 22:13
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    not to my ear, it does mean 'make the banging-together of hands' noise, though you can add, 'on the back/ear' to change the meaning from two hands to one plus 'other aspect' Dec 23, 2014 at 22:15

I agree with the idea that both "The coach clapped for him" and "The coach applauded him" sound natural, but I would observe that in America, we're most used to using those words without any object, so the best, and MOST natural (at least for me), would be to say something more like "When the coach saw him cross into the endzone, he stood up and clapped." (or applauded)


As an American, I would say that the coach clapped, but the coach applauded for the player.

  • Can we continue this subject in a chat room Faraz?
    – A-friend
    Oct 3, 2016 at 8:45

I also think 'clap for him' sounds natural, because we can use the preposition 'for' with the word 'clap' as a noun, as in: A big clap for John , so why not use it with 'clap' as verb also.


Clap and applaud are transitive verbs, so it is grammatically wrong for one to say "The coach clapped for him and The coach applauded for him"

The correct sentences are; The coach clapped him. The coach applauded him.

Response from Opolot Richard Teacher of English language.

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