for to <infinitive>

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Thomas1

Senior Member
polszczyzna warszawska
So one night he was wanted for to go on a call and they couldn't find him anywhere.
[...] and the clerk and Father O'Rourke and another priest theat was there brought in a light for to look for him.
Dubliners, The Sisters; James Joyce.


Hello, :)

The parts in bold in the above quotations are something that's caught my attention. From the context I gather for to means (in order) to. I've never come across it before.
Is it obsolete or perhaps peculiar to the style of the person who uses it in the quoted sentences? If the latter what would you call that style? Or, could it be that it's a simply construction used by the Irish/ Dubliners?
Is it used in modern English?


Input appreciated. :)


Thomas
 
  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    So one night he was wanted for to go on a call and they couldn't find him anywhere.
    [...] and the clerk and Father O'Rourke and another priest theat was there brought in a light for to look for him.
    Dubliners, The Sisters; James Joyce.


    Hello, :)

    The parts in bold in the above quotations are something that's caught my attention. From the context I gather for to means (in order) to. I've never come across it before.
    Is it obsolete or perhaps peculiar to the style of the person who uses it in the quoted sentences? If the latter what would you call that style? Or, could it be that it's a simply construction used by the Irish/ Dubliners?
    Is it used in modern English?


    Input appreciated. :)


    Thomas
    Hi, Thomas One,

    Good to hear from you. I hope all is well with you.

    This has a strong Irish tang about it. I'm sure you'll get confirmation and details from an Irish source soon.

    Best wishes,

    Thomas Two.
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    This has a "folky" sound to it: the English of a bygone era. Take this, for example from Chaucer: "To Canterbury they go...the holy blissful martir for to seek". I would expect this has been retained in some rural communities, including the USA (I have seen the Ozarks mentioned), so I wouldn't be surprised to hear it in English spoken in Ireland at the time of Joyce.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I agree that it has a folksy sound to it. In the U.S., children used to be taught a 19th century folk song called "Oh Susanna", which begins:

    I come from Alabama with my banjo on my knee,
    I’m g’wan to Louisiana, my true love for to see,
     

    domangelo

    Senior Member
    United States English
    Yes, "for to" used in this way has the sound of Appalachian English for people in North America, the area that is sometimes called "hillbilly" (a pejorative) country. This area was populated by Scots-Irish people about 200 years ago, and the dialect there retains many words and grammatical structures that have become obsolete elsewhere.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Here comes confirmation of the Irish tang that Thomas T suggested. 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.

    From a quick look around it seems that there is plenty of analysis of the use of "for + to infinitive", but it's all a bit difficult for me.

    In local modern use, for to may be an intensified version of the simple to + infinitive.
     

    Egfrith

    Member
    England, English
    My apologies if this has been discussed in the past, but I have no idea quite how to search for this particular topic.

    The phrase "for to" do something, when, in modern BrE at least, "for" is omitted entirely.

    A couple of googled examples :

    "I taught him for to whistle"
    (PP&M : American folksong lyric, 1960s)
    "It is important for to teach them about rules..." (some US public library site)
    "... which for to prevent, / I have in quick determination / Thus set it down:" (Shakespeare:Hamlet III.i.168)

    I also found a reference (some newsgroup, somewhere) as this being something one encounters regularly in Irish English.

    My two closely related questions are these:

    1. Is this current in any regional flavours of everyday English, or is now only used to give an archaic/metrical/poetic twist wherever it is still found?
    ie. another example of 'Colonial' English being more conservative than current BrE?

    2. Where does this usage come from anyway? I dont recognise this from my (admittedly rusty) OE - '(swa) þæt...' is the standard way of expressing purpose, if I recall? And I note a passing similarity with Swedish (eg. "spela för att vinna" = "play to win"), but know no ON. But I raise those two observations in passing! Does anyone here happen to know for sure?

    Thanks!
     

    beccamutt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Hi Egfrith,

    Although I'm certainly no expert, I would feel fairly safe saying that "for to do something" is not used in AE. In your first example I taught him for to whistle from an American folksong, I would venture that this is more a colloquial misuse of modern English, akin to He learned me to read or She ain't never gonna get it, rather than an archaic form of English.
     

    Egfrith

    Member
    England, English
    A third observation, for what its worth ..

    In the second two examples given in my post, "for to" can be replaced with "in order to", as can the "för att" in the Swedish. But in the folksong, this meaning will not stand. I wonder if you're right, Becca, and the folksong is indeed being colloquial and folksy and has misused the expression. Hmmm.

    Anyway, thanks for your quick posts there - I'll sit back and leave the stage clear now :)
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    My apologies if this has been discussed in the past, but I have no idea quite how to search for this particular topic.
    Forum search, advanced version, for threads that have "for to" in their title (including the quotation marks in the search criterion) found the thread that I have added today's thread to.

    When "for to" is used properly, it can be replaced by or "in order to".

    I went to London for to visit the Queen.
    I went to London in order to visit the Queen.

    Of the three examples given in post #7, only Shakespeare has got it right. The other two are bizarre.

    As I said earlier, this structure is alive and well, though colloquial, in my part of the world.
     
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    cailín gaelach

    New Member
    Éire - Irish & English
    'For to' is definitely an older feature of Irish English. Although it is very rarely used today, I have heard it a few times, always by older people in more rural areas I think.

    It really just means to.
    In modern English, 'in order to' is just a fancier way of saying 'to.'

    As panjandrum said it can simply be shortened to 'to + infinitive' and this works in all the above examples.


    So one night he was wanted for to go on a call and they couldn't find him anywhere.
    = So one night he was wanted to go on a call and they couldn't find him anywhere.

    and another priest that was there brought in a light for to look for him.
    =
    and another priest that was there brought in a light to look for him.


    "I taught him for to whistle"
    =
    "I taught him to whistle"

    "It is important for to teach them about rules..."
    =
    "It is important to teach them about rules..."

    "... which for to prevent, / I have in quick determination / Thus set it down:"
    =
    "... which to prevent, / I have in quick determination / Thus set it down:"
     
    Last edited:
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