(for) a short time

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orchard

Senior Member
Turkish
Hi all!
I have been reading "the Bridge of San Luis Rey", by Thornton Wilder, and came across the following sentence:

"They had worked for him a short time and the silence of the three of them had made a little kernel of sense in a world of boasting, self-excuse and rhetoric."​

Why is it that the chunk "a short time' is used without the "for" before it, as it is apparent that the implied meaning is them having worked for him for a short time?

Many thanks in advance.
 
  • Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    You could add "for" but "a short time" is a synonym for "briefly" and you can leave it off.

    "They had worked for him a short time briefly and the silence of the three of them had made a little kernel of sense in a world of boasting, self-excuse and rhetoric."
     

    Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    You can do this with a lot of time expressions, particularly in the spoken language. For example, "I worked there ten years" in place of "I worked there for ten years".

    I have the impression that this is more common in U.S. English than in the British variety, but I'm not sure.

    Why is it that the chunk "a short time' is used without the "for" before it ...
    The technical term is "phrase".
     
    Last edited:

    orchard

    Senior Member
    Turkish

    Thank you both.

    So, can I assume that the optional omission of the "for" in such time expressions is not grammatical but idiomatic?​
     

    Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    An interesting question. Time expressions without "for" don't sound ungrammatical to me. English is far from the only language in which prepositions can be omitted from certain types of expression involving time.
     

    exgerman

    Senior Member
    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    In this case, Wilder probably wanted to avoid the jingle "for him for a short while". The word for is optional in for a short while, but it is not optional in for him.
     
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