We have a question from the Peanut Gallery – hooray!
“Thank you very much for the valuable writing tips. How about FOR and OF? Can you say something about them? They are confusing, too.”
Ah, those pesky little prepositions! How can such little words carry so much meaning?
They aren’t even capitalized in titles, yet they really matter.
Take for instance, today’s Tip title, where these words are capitalized because of their importance. The reference is to Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address, in which Honest Abe promises that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Here the word “of” means that the governing folks are members of the people, who are elected “by” the people who vote, to serve “for” the people’s benefit. So these itty-bitty prepositions pack a pretty large meaning into one elegant and eloquent sentence.
So let’s take a closer look at OF:
Point of reckoning: North of Dallas
Point of origin: Man of La Mancha, Queen of England
Point of cause: Died of cancer
Material of composition: Made of titanium, government of the people
Part of whole: Half of the pie, property of the university
Derivation: Function of permeability
Connection of feeling: Fond of chocolate, love of nature
Quality: Men of honor
And now let’s focus on FOR:
Purpose or goal: Donation for the homeless, headed for home
Object of activity: An eye for fashion, lie down for a rest
Constituting: Chicken for supper, take him for a fool
Selection: For one thing, for example
On behalf or in favor: I vote for the amendment, government for the people
Equivalence: Paid a dollar for a hamburger
Time or distance: For two miles or for thirty minutes
In a general sense, use OF when something is already there and something else is part of it or has a relationship to it, whereas use FOR when something is approaching something else.