Are the following sentences grammatical or not? If not, does substituting a to-infinite make them grammatical? (Optional: designate if the sentence expresses purpose, reason, aim, or function)

1 I have decided to purchase a jet for getting to NYC and back more quickly.

2 I have decided to buy a jet for having a quicker way to get to NYC and back.

This is my only reason and aim; this will be the jet's only purpose and function.

3 I hate hairdryers, so I am buying a space heater for drying my hair more naturally, and that is my only aim & purpose & reason and that will be its only function

4 For having a lasting shine in your hair, buy ShineOn Shampoo.

5 My neighbor and I have decided to cooperate more for having a better life together.


Research done:

ELU How can I decide when to use “for” + “-ing” or “to” + [infinitive] in a sentence?

(Note the accepted answer here is a restatement of Cambridge Dictionary's For + -ing or to + infinitive?)

ELU Expressing a purpose with for + gerund?

ELU Can “for -ing” form be used after a noun to indicate the purpose of the noun?

BBC English To + infinitive and for + verb-ing to express purpose (Currently the best site I've found.)

ELL Clauses of purpose: “for + -ing” or "to-infinitive [duplicate]

All of which have answers that I find (i) incomplete (ii) contradictory (iii) terribly confusing, if not (iv) wrong. To sort through the haze, I am focusing on one issue.

Background

Some sources say that you need to use a to-infinitive for expressing purpose, aim, function, reason, etc. I find these to be rather hazy distinctions, given that the ODO defines purpose as The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists and the same work lists as synonyms for purpose: aim, reason, function, etc.

It is my assertion that at least some of the following sentences demonstrate that one can use the -ing form (be it a gerund, verbal noun, participle) to express individual purpose (aim, reason, function, intention, whatever you want to call it). Do you agree, or not? Why (not)?


In shorter terms, are the sentences grammatical? or do we have to substitute a to-infinitive (including in order to + infinitive) to make them grammatical? (Optional: designate if the sentence expresses purpose, reason, aim, function, etc.)

  • I never had a problem with this, and seeing all these questions makes me reevaluate my knowledge. – laureapresa Jun 16 '15 at 8:49
  • I can't provide an explanation, but I think except sentence #4 in all the sentences it's acceptable to use both constructions - to-invinitive and for+verb-ing. I am not sure if for+verb-ing construction is incorrect in sentence #4, but I think to-infinitive is preferred there. Please correct me if I am wrong. A very interesting question, looking forward to a good answer. And I am still reading the links you provided :-) – Man_From_India Jun 21 '15 at 4:53
  • But I prefer to use to-infinitive in all these sentences. – Man_From_India Jun 21 '15 at 6:24
  • the explanation from Cambridge (as in the link) is up-to-the mark for this question. What's the problem? – Maulik V Jun 23 '15 at 6:14

Yes, I agree that sometimes you can use the -ing form. Sometimes, that's the most natural way to do it.

  • I bought a spray nozzle for washing my car.

  • I have decided to buy a jet for getting to NYC...

However, sometimes it's not so natural:

  • I have decided to buy a jet for having [X]

This would flow much better as

  • I have decided to buy a jet, {to have / so I will have} [X]

This might be because "have" is much less active than "wash". The nozzle could be thought of helping you to wash, but the jet will not "have" a faster way to get to and fro—YOU will! And you will "have" the jet as well. It's not about what the jet does, it's about why YOU buy it. That is, the "have" phrase needs to modify buy, not jet.

As for 3), it's fine. It sounds almost as good as "a space heater to dry my hair more naturally"

But 4) sounds contrived. It would be simpler, more straightforward and most natural to just leave out "having":

  • For a lasting shine in your hair, {buy/get/use} ShineOn Shampoo.

Number 5) sounds non-idiomatic. The collocation "for having" is usually in such constructions as " thank you for having us over" or "I am thankful for having a roof over my head." in regard to future results, we might hear "I plan on having a good time" or I plan to have a good time", not "I plan for having a good time". So I would phrase #5 as:

  • We agreed to cooperate more, to have a better life together.
  • No. 5 has been changed so that the problem you mention is eliminated. – user6951 Jun 16 '15 at 22:10

We can use both constructions to express purpose - to-infinitive and for+verb-ing.

In answer to the question asking "WHY", a to-infinitive is often used. On the other hand, in answer to the question asking "WHAT FOR", we use for+verb-ing or for+noun.

This is not very helpful as both the questions mean more or less the same thing.

From Practical English Usage (PEU) by Michael Swan -

213 FOR: Purpose and Cause

1. People's purposes

For can be used to talk about somebody's purpose in doing something, but only when it's followed by a noun.

He stopped at the pub for a drink.
I went to the college for an interview with Professor Taylor.

For is not used before a verb in this sense. The infinitive alone is used to express a person's purpose.

We stopped at the pub to have a drink. (NOT ...for having a drink.)
I went to the college to see Professor Taylor. (NOT ...for seeing Professor Taylor.)

2. The purposes of things: -ing forms and infinitives

For can be used before the -ing form of a verb to express the 'purpose' of a thing - what it's used for - especially when the thing is the subject of the clause.

Is that cake for eating or just for looking at?
An altimeter is used for measuring height above sea level.

When the clause has a person as subject, it is more common to use an infinitive to express the purpose of a thing.

We use altimeter to measure height above sea level.

3. Causes of reactions

For...ing can also be used after a description of a positive or negative reaction, to explain the behaviour that caused it.

We are grateful to you for helping us out.
I'm angry with you for waking me up.
They punished the child for lying.
He was sent to prison for stealing.

Apart from that there are verbs that collocate well with one construction over the other. It depends on individual verbs.
For example - The verb need prefers infinitive construction, and using for+verb-ing is considered incorrect.

I need to get some sleep. (NOT ...for getting some sleep)

But

I need glasses for reading.
I need time to study.
The men need courage to confront the obstacles in their lives.

I need you to help me with cooking. (you are helping me in cooking.)
I need Sam to complete the mission. (NOT ...for completing the mission) [REASON? Refer to point #2 from the quotation from PEU]

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Now coming to the sentences you quoted.

? 1. I have decided to purchase a jet for getting to NYC and back more quickly.

The verb decide takes infinitive construction. So this is correct - I have decided to purchase a jet.
Now after that the sentence adds why I have decided to purchase the jet. There is not preference of infinitive construction or for+verb-ing construction after the verb purchase, so we can use either one of them. Now checking from the PEU quotation, we can find out that infinitive construction is preferred because the purchase is carried out by a human.

I have decided to purchase a jet to get to NYC and back more quickly.

Your second sentence -

? 2. I have decided to buy a jet for having a quicker way to get to NYC and back.

The verb decide takes infinitive construction. So this is correct - I have decided to buy a jet.
Now after that the sentence adds why I have decided to purchase the jet. There is not preference of infinitive construction or for+verb-ing construction after the verb buy, so we can use either one of them. Now checking from the PEU quotation, we can find out that infinitive construction is preferred because the purchase is carried out by a human.

I have decided to buy a jet to have a quicker way to get to NYC and back.

Your third sentence -

? 3. I hate hairdryers, so I am buying a space heater for drying my hair more naturally.

As already mentioned there is no preference from these two constructions after the verb buy, we can use either one of them. But as the quotation from PEU (point #2) mentions for person's purpose infinitive construction is preferred, infinitive construction is preferred here. It's I who is buying the drier for some purpose. It's I's purpose.

I hate hairdryers, so I am buying a space heater to buy my hair more naturally.

Your fourth sentence -

? 4. For having a lasting shine in your hair, buy ShineOn Shampoo.

As already mentioned there is no preference from these two constructions after the verb buy, we can use either one of them. But as the quotation from PEU (point #2) mentions for person's purpose infinitive construction is preferred, infinitive construction is preferred here. It's you who is buying the drier for some purpose. It's you's purpose.

Your fifth sentence -

? 5. My neighbor and I have decided to cooperate more for having a better life together.

After the verb decide infinitive construction is preferred. So it's correct - My neighbour and I have decided to cooperate more.
Now after that the sentence adds the information why they decided to do that. So we have two options open. We can use either one of them. From point #2 (quotation from PEU), we came to know if it's a person's purpose infinitive construction is preferred. Therefore in this sentence infinitive construction is preferred. My neighbour and I cooperated, and we have some purpose.

My neighbor and I have decided to cooperate more to have a better life together.

  • So, per PEU, you would change all of them from for -ing to to infinitive? I could see this, especially if the sentences are expressing purpose. But what if we do not want to express the subject I's purpose/reason/aim/etc, but we want to express the function of the thing purchased? Can we still not say for + -ing? Ex I bought a new shelf displaying my DVDs. (Which seems to take us back to Sentence 1.) I like your answer. I am not entirely convinced. – user6951 Jun 23 '15 at 7:39
  • @pazzo Thanks. I don't know if not following what PEU recommended it's ungrammatical or not, because PEU itself said that "it's more common". So from there we can draw some conclusion: that in some cases (cases like your example sentences) are not ungrammatical, but may be they are less common. The first sentence in Cambridge uses for construction even when the subject is a human. That is similar to your first sentence. I need something for storing CDs. - The purpose of something is store CDs, and something is definitely not human, (cont...) – Man_From_India Jun 23 '15 at 14:37
  • (cont...) so it's justified that for construction is used. But if we see it from the point of view of the subject to construction is preferred. So it's basically a choice, as far as I see it. That's why in COCA there are few hits for soap for washing compared to soap to wash. The only purpose of soap is washing, so both construction can be okay. But in your sentence #1, though I still believe it's also acceptable, it's like this He purchased X X -> a NP -> a Jet for traveling. For construction is possible. At the same time to construction is also possible. (cont...) – Man_From_India Jun 23 '15 at 14:41
  • (cont...) but when you specify the destination and starting point of the jet, it's a bit unusual. I mean the Jet can travel even beyond that. So in that particular case it's not wise to see from the jet's perspective. Because Jet can travel anywhere. So it's better to see from the human subject's perspective. (I don't know if these comments does at all make sense, but that is what I think. I didn't find any other reference about this topic.) – Man_From_India Jun 23 '15 at 14:44
  • I appreciate your comments. – user6951 Jun 23 '15 at 16:24

Your sentences are grammatically ok. However, I would personally use the infinitive in all of them, except maybe the first one. Also, sentences 4 and 5 either wouldn't use having:

For a lasting shine in your hair, buy ShineOn Shampoo.
My neighbor and I have decided to cooperate more for a better life together.

Or would use the infinitive:

To have a lasting shine in your hair, buy ShineOn Shampoo.
My neighbor and I have decided to cooperate more to have a better life together.

For in these cases is answering the question "Why?"; "What for?" is an alternative to why. The infinitive version is entirely acceptable as well. For the most part, I find the infinitive form preferable to the for + verb-ing form. When in doubt, use the infinitive, unless you omit the verb entirely as in my first two examples.

Purpose can be expressed with the infinitive or a gerund.

Which to use, depends on what is the more natural sentence structure.

You examples may not technically break a rule, but they would sound more natural with an infinitive instead, except maybe 4.

When using "I" as the subject, the infinitive is better.

I bought a plane to fly. I bought a heater to dry my hair.

If you make the object the subject, the gerund is better.

The plane was bought for flying. The space heater is for drying hair and not for warming the house.

All those sentences seem correct to me, just some things may need to be improved.


1/ I have decided to purchase a jet for getting to NYC and back more quickly.

I would rather use going to than getting to

2/ I have decided to buy a jet for having a quicker way to get to NYC and back.

Maybe "to buy a jet for having a quicker journey to go to NYC and back"? I really don't like the "to get to somewhere"

  • I edited Sentence 5. – user6951 Jun 16 '15 at 6:48
  • @pazzo It's ok for me ;) – Yohann V. Jun 16 '15 at 6:49

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