All that is needed, is <for> good men to do nothing

Sacha Levy

New Member
French - France
Hello,

<<"All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph, is for good men and women to do nothing">>

I guess that this may not be the accurate quote from Edmund Berk (it's not me it's Emma Watson! :p), but in fact, I am wondering about the structure of the second part of the sentence. I understand the meaning, but I do not understand how it is constructed, or more precisely, the use of the word "for" in that way.

Could you explain it to me ?

Thank you in advance.
Sacha Levy

(as you have perhaps already noticed, or as you will be able to notice soon, my english might be a catastrophe... I'm french ^^)

(Edited so that the quote under discussion is in the message box, not just in the title. -- JustKate, English Only moderator)
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • srk

    Senior Member
    English - US
    That's for me to know and you to find out. (Child's response to a nosy question.)

    I've never thought about it. The last definition for "for" in our dictionary applies:
    31. (used to introduce a subject in a to + verb or infinitive phrase): It's time for me to go.

    That can hardly help you understand the sense of it. I'll keep thinking while someone else comes along.

    Welcome to the forum.

    Edit: I began with the sentence I've grayed out, thinking that it was similar to the quote in the OP. I now see it as That's mine to know and yours to discover. I can't see the quote in the same way.
     
    Last edited:

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    "Incorrect" as in "ungrammatical," cyberpedant? I disagree. The second for is being used the same way as the first, and what's wrong with that?

    In any case, Sasha specifically said that he's curious about the structure of the sentence he quoted. It's difficult to theorize about such things, particularly if this is Emma Watson's speech rather than her writing (if it was in speech, it could just be a simple error). But assuming she did this on purpose - and surely the addition of "and women" was on purpose - I wonder if the second for is simply because that makes structure of the second phrase more parallel to the first one?
     

    cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    And some say that the original authorship is also in doubt. But I have long dedicated myself to the meme "two words are not as good as one." But "You pays your money, you takes your choice."
     

    srk

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I understand the meaning, but I do not understand how it is constructed, or more precisely, the use of the word "for" in that way.
    I think it is the same "for" as in "For you to stay home is a mistake" and a different "for" than in "For you, to stay home is a mistake." The first means "Your staying home is a mistake." The second means "In your case, it is a mistake to stay home."

    I don't see any semantic contribution in the former "for." I think it just functions as a flag to indicate that the meat of what follows is in a particular form: noun as subject plus to-infinitive.* "For you to stay home is a mistake" might as well be "You to stay home is a mistake," except that this latter construction is unfamiliar.

    *That's how I read the WRF dictionary I referred to in post #2.
     

    Sacha Levy

    New Member
    French - France
    Excuse me for answering so late...
    Thank you for your messages.

    The latest answer seems rather clear to me, I will probably remember that.

    But, finally, that is not really a common structure, is it ?

    EDIT : In fact I assume I could ask a more interesting question: Will people see me as an extraterrestrial if I say "For her to say that was really interesting" (I mean, for another reason that the deep sense of such a sentence...).
     
    Last edited:

    srk

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Will people see me as an extraterrestrial if I say "For her to say that was really interesting"
    No one should find it odd for you to say it that way. Because the idea you want to express already contains the word "that," your formula sounds better than "That she said that was really interesting." (using "that" as in the variant of the quote attributed to Burke.)
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top