A place for to die. How English is that?

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Senior Member
Hello, forum

I just happened to have a look at Paul Francis Webster's lyrics for Green Leaves of Summer (song of the Alamo movie)

Two verses read :
A time to be reaping, a time to be sowing
A time just for living, a place for to die.
(emphasis added).

My question is just: how come?

Funnily enough, this would typically be the kind of mistake that a French learner of English would make.

Is that a folksy way of saying a place for dying or a place to die?
Or maybe some kind of 19th-century talk?

Or am I simply wrong in thinking that it is not correct English?

Any input appreciated.
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    Presumably, this is a reference to the Alamo itself. Perhaps it´s supposed to sounds like the slang of the people of that time and place, as you say "folksy" and during the nineteenth century.


    Senior Member
    New Zealand English
    It's a paraphrase of the Bible (Ecclesiastes 3:2):
    There is “a time to be born, a time to die, a time to sow, a time to reap”

    Suffice it to say that in modern English "a place for to die" sounds incorrect.


    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    In American folk music, and possible in other English-language folk music, the "for to + infinitive" construction is not uncommon. You see it in lyrics like "She's climbing up the mountain / Her true love for to see / She doesn't know he's bound to go / Out on the deep blue sea." (OK, I know that doesn't make any sense. I just made it up because I couldn't remember enough of a real example. :eek:)

    I don't know if this was ever common in speech, but it certainly is not today.


    Senior Member
    English, UK
    I agree that it sounds 'folksy' or archaic. In my area of north west England, there are some regional dialects which add a "for" into "going to", contracted into something like 'fuht', to show your intention or purpose in doing something. So around Bolton you hear phrases such as "I'm goin' fuht buy a butty." (I'm going for to buy a sandwich.)

    Needless to say, this is not standard English! :p


    Senior Member
    English UK
    Cheers, Nun-Translator. I didn't know you could write country songs lyrics. :)
    And very good lyrics they were too!

    Here's another AmE example, J-M: Coming for to carry me home :)

    "For to" goes back a long way. This Chaucer extract includes several examples, such as For myn entente is nat but for to wynne, as well as instances of "to + verb" without "for".


    Senior Member
    English English
    My old granny who was from Blackburn (Lancs., UK) used to use for to as her 'standard': I'm going tuh't shop fuh tuh buy some yeast. It was two distinct words, unlike in Bolton (about 10 miles away!)


    Senior Member
    Swedish (Scania)
    Your granny's grammar in this context is also the standard construction in Scandinavian languages - is this an old Norse influence, perhaps?



    Senior Member
    "Oh Susanna" is another American folk song that uses "for to". Nun-Translator's improvised lyric reminded me of this one:

    Oh I come from Alabama with my banjo on my knee
    I'm goin' to Louisiana my true love for to see.

    I suppose it's not truly a folk song since the composer is known. This was written by Stephen Foster.


    Senior Member
    Could it be :
    A place to die for?
    "to die for" usually means something that is highly desirable and enviable. "She has a house to die for" means that she has a beautiful, desirable house with enviable qualities (location, furnishings, amenities.) "This dessert is to die for" is an utterly delicious dessert.

    I don't think that fits the context at all.


    Senior Member
    English UK
    Could it be :
    A place to die for?
    Hi ayed -

    No, "place for to die" is just a non-standard way of saying "place to die". "For to" instead of "to" was common in older versions of English and it still survives in some regional varieties.


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This use of for to is alive, well, and common in my part of the world.
    For a little more information, including history and reservations on usage, see for to
    me said:
    It is an ancient English form that persists here and pops up from time to time in all kinds of contexts. You'll find it in the Bible, in Shakespeare, and in various Scottish writings (often as for till), and no surprise that it travelled across the Atlantic and ended up in George Washington's Journal :)

    The OED tags it as archaic, vulgar, obsolete in educated use. I suppose that's about right.


    New Member
    English - US
    And very good lyrics they were too!

    Here's another AmE example, J-M: Coming for to carry me home :)
    That's pretty interesting. I've always heard it as "Coming forth to carry me home." :eek:

    Actually, in all the examples, I've heard the word as something else! I suppose my ear just couldn't accept the wording.


    Italy- Italian
    That's really weird... very interesting to know that old-fashioned and regional English have this form too! It actually seems somewhat 'biblical' if you know what I mean
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