I have a question about the usage of "for" like this:

  1. "The alarm went off, and everyone headed for the exit."
  2. "The alarm went off, and everyone walked for the exit."

"Head for" in sentence 1 is standard English, with "for" meaning "toward". So, would sentence 2 work too with "walk for"?

  • 3
    For #2: "walked to/toward" is common usage.
    – lurker
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 23:12

2 Answers 2


Not quite. "Headed for" started in air/sea navigation, as short for "set heading for", or to turn the plane/ship in the direction of something. The "for" is part of the idiom.

"Walked for" doesn't really work. "Walked to" or "walked towards" do.

That said, it seems that an alarm would get people a bit more startled than walking speed, so perhaps "ran for the exit" would work. I have no idea why that is grammatical and "walk for the exit" isn't.

  • 3
    "Head for the door" is perfectly fine if you're talking about a person on land...
    – Catija
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 3:02
  • Oh, I guess I was unclear. Of course it works, I was trying to say that "for" is part of the traditional phrase, and not something that can be copied to similar verbs. Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 16:05

No doubt, the word "for" as a preposition also means "towards" or "in the direction of," but you don't use it in this sense with the verb "walk." You usually use to/towards with the walk.

You can use "for" to refer to the extent of time or distance you walk as follows:

He walked for five miles.

I had to walk for two hours to get to the airport.

On the other hand, it's appropriate to use this preposition in the sense of "to/towards" with verbs "run, make, head," etc.

So the use of the phrase "head for" in the sentence #1 is idiomatic and grammatical.

If you want to replace this phrase, you can do so with "run for" or "make for," which are more appropriate in the context of this sentence. These phrases means "to head for," especially fast and in haste.

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