'at' vs 'for' as 'cause, reason for'

Annakrutitskaya

Senior Member
Russian
Hello!

I would grateful for your help in clarifying the difference between 'at' and 'for' used when referring to the cause of something.

I understand 'at', when used in this sense, as 'facing something, being in front of something, confronting something, something external', while 'for' has a sense of inner cause.

Here are examples to start with:

I couldn't speak for laughing. = I couldn't speak because I was laughing. 'At' wouldn't make sense here because a person has not confronted with something.

He didn’t answer for fear of hurting her. Same as above.

But: They were impatient at the delay. Can I say 'They were impatient for the delay"? Would it alter the meaning?

What are nuances that would not allow to interchange these prepositions?

Thank you!
 
  • Annakrutitskaya

    Senior Member
    Russian
    No, "They were impatient for the delay" would mean they were impatiently waiting for the delay to begin.
    Thank you. Do I understand correctly that whenever we use 'at' we refer to something that has already happened, and 'for' is used to describe a potentially ensuing (or actual) cause?
     

    Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    Thank you. Do I understand correctly that whenever we use 'at' we refer to something that has already happened, and 'for' is used to describe a potentially ensuing (or actual) cause?
    I suppose that's true if you're talking about using the prepositions with "impatient." If you're impatient for something, you're waiting (impatiently) for it to happen. If you're impatient at (or, mor commonly, with) something, it's happening at the time.
     
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