He's tall and fair for/at the gathering.


Senior Member
Cantonese, Hong Kong
There was a picture of Phan's family, his French father and Vietnamese mother..... The portrait was formal, arranged. Sabine studied their faces one at a time. The father, tall and fair for the gathering, looked hopeful, as if he had just been introduced.

Source: The Magician's Assistant

Hi, I'd like to know why "at" isn't used here, like I met her at a gathering of engineers and scientists.
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hello redgiant

    I was puzzled by the sentence on first reading it.

    Then it struck me that Phan's family, being Vietnamese, were likely to be in general shorter in height and darker of hair than Phan's French father. So I realised the "for" in the sentence means something like "in the context of".

    Phan's father may not have been very tall or fair in absolute terms, but in the context of the gathering - in comparison with the others present - he was distinctly tall and fair.

    "At" wouldn't work here - it would give the impression that he was tall and fair while he was at the gathering, but as soon as he left he might turn small and dark:).


    Senior Member
    For here means the father is tall and fair in comparison with others in the picture.

    'Sabine studied their faces one at a time' that means a comparison being done.
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