Tricky prepositions are nothing to laugh at. Yet sometimes the most basic words scramble your brain waves so tightly that your thoughts twist into tight knots. For instance, a quick internet search tells you that most of the time, you can hear whether of or for is correct in a sentence, but that’s not always a reliable test. And why should you wonder whether you’ve chosen correctly? After reading this article, you can dismiss the question of of vs. for from your caseload.
When deciding between of and for, you can ask yourself four simple questions. And guess what? You’ve heard them all before!
Simply figure out which of the four questions your sentence answers. By rephrasing the prepositional phrase as a question, it’s much easier to figure out whether to use for or of.
Is it explaining what something is?
Next semester I will attend a college of fine arts.
A college of what? Of fine arts.
Is it explaining where someone or something is?
Samantha needed to leave for work.
Samantha needed to leave for where? For work.
Sometimes the phrase gives us information about who.
Please pick up dinner for your sister.
Dinner for whom? For your sister.
Or perhaps the phrase answers when something will happen.
Read sections ten and eleven for Tuesday.
For when? For Tuesday.
Fill in the blanks:
I would like you to take me to the hospital ___ orthopedics.
Is the phrase going to answer of what or for what? Orthopedics is what this hospital does, so it’s a hospital of orthopedics.
The mother ___ my best friend makes great brownies.
Does the phrase answer of whom or for whom? The mother of whom? The mother of my best friend.
The queen ___ England is a historical icon.
What question does this phrase to answer? The queen of where? The queen of England.
We should leave for the movie before quarter ___ seven.
Here, of wins the for vs. of competition. As we know, the only possible question is of which hour.
Fill in the blanks:
Cindy plans to apply ___ a grant in order to study medicine.
Cindy plans to apply for what? It wouldn’t make sense for Cindy to apply of a grant. Cindy is applying for a grant to study medicine.
Even though rain poured from the sky, Joe left ___ work.
Again, what question does this sentence answer? Would you ask, Joe left of where? No, you would ask, Joe left for where? The answer is definitely of in the of vs. for debate.
When we go to the store, I’d like to get a book ___ Mary.
There may be a book of Mary somewhere, but in this case, it’s more likely that the phrase answers for whom rather than of whom.
Please bring your written response ___ Monday.
This sentence doesn’t answer any of the of questions. It does, however, answer the question for when. Please bring your written response for Monday.
If you are speaking of an item that is completed, use of.
If you are speaking of an item that corresponds to a process, use for.
The case regarding for vs. of doesn’t have to scramble your brain waves. When you can’t decide between of and for, ask yourself what question your phrase answers. You’ll find that this approach helps clarify things for you the majority of the time.
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