repent of/for


Senior Member
japanese japan

What difference do you see between 'repent for' and 'repent of'?

Which preposition do you think is idiomatic in the following sentences?

1. I must repent ( for / of ) stealing your money yesterday. Sorry. Please forgive me.

2. They would have been repenting ( for / of ) the incident that they failed to finish the task by the due and damaged our asset if you and I had kept the records of their attending to the project.

My guess is:

1. I must repent of stealing your money yesterday. Sorry. Please forgive me.

2. They would have been repenting for the incident that they failed to finish the task by the due and damaged our asset if you and I had kept the records of their attending to the project.

But it is unable to explain the reason of my choices. Just the intuition of a Japanese speaking middle aged man tells so.

Thanks in advance.
  • alice2010

    Senior Member
    Usually I use "repent of <something>" instead of "repent for". I even doubt that "repent for" is not a correct collocation. Maybe I am wrong...
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    Senior Member
    japanese japan
    Thank you, Alice2010.

    You are right. I just checked the dictionay once again, and came to know that it says 'repent of ' is idiomatic but 'repent for'.

    I somehow misunderstood about how to use repent.

    Thanks again,
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    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Repent: a word that is entirely familiar but in my experience rarely used outside very specific contexts.
    Even there, it generally appears intransitively and without further modification.
    That means I can't rely on "what sounds natural" :) so I went to see what the OED has to say.

    I found that repent is used intransitively without further modification; frequently followed by "of", occasionally followed by "for" or "at".
    1719 D. Defoe Farther Adventures Robinson Crusoe 163 None teach Repentance like true Penitents: He wants nothing but to repent.
    2005 J. Weyland Saving Kristen viii. 125 Then I think you should take the sacrament. That is what it's for—to help us repent of our mistakes.

    It is also used transitively:
    1989 I. Taylor George Eliot (1990) ix. 103 Marian came to repent her hasty judgement based on outward appearances.

    A personal view, having read the examples, is that "repent of" seems more appropriate as a generalisation, and "repent for" seems more appropriate when referring to something very specific.
    That makes me feel that the post #1 examples sound better with "repent for".

    It would be useful to hear from someone who uses "repent" more frequently :)


    Senior Member
    English - British
    To judge from earlier examples in the thread, there may be misunderstanding of the basic meaning of 'repent'.
    It is really about the feeling of sorrow for a wrongful deed, not about the action of apologising or making amends.
    I agree with panjandrum. I think I can find the word 'repent' in novels that were written in the Victorian Era.

    P.S : I witnessed some pastors in Korea use 'repent for' very frequently (and very energetically) in their sevices to drive the throng to give away their money lavishiy.
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    Senior Member
    English (US), Danish, bilingual
    I agree with wandle’s definition of ‘repent’ with respect to it being a reference to a personal feeling of regret and remorse. In my experience it is used mainly in religious contexts. It is frequently used intransitively, ‘We are truly sorry and we humbly repent’ (ref. Prayers of Confession and Pardon).

    If I had to use a preposition…I would use ‘We repent of our sins’ or ‘we repent for our sins’ interchangeably. Better yet (in my opinion) is a transitive construction with a direct object (and no preposition) ‘We repent our sins


    Senior Member
    Repent is usually used to mean "to feel sorry for something bad that you have done", but I think its meaning is not restricted to this definition, and it's sometimes akin to that of "regret" - which often implies nothing about wrongfulness of something. One just has regrets for having done something, or not having done something.

    marry in haste, repent at leisure - in this very context, repenting has nothing to do with "feeling sorrow for a wrongful deed", as wandle so aptly put it. It's more of regretting the decision of marrying someone, without giving it much thought .
    He came to repent his hasty decision (OED) - the same is the case with this sentence.

    I know that, say, "religious" meaning of "repent" is the prevailing one, but how often do people use it to mean "regret / wish not to have done something or to have done something - no "remorse" connotations". I suppose not very often.

    Ahmed Al Saady

    Senior Member
    Hi, everyone!
    I hope everything's alright.
    May you kindly tell me
    if there's any difference
    between the following two sentences
    'He repented of/for his sins'
    and 'He repented his sins'?
    Well, there's another question
    I'd like you to help me with:
    Does the following sentence make sense?

    If my love for you, were a sin,
    then it'd be the only sin
    I'd never repent (of),
    in this life or the next.

    Thank you very much!
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    Senior Member
    English - England
    To repent is chiefly used in a religious context, and religious language is very conservative. It clings to older forms of English, heavily influence by the King James Version (1611) of the Bible.

    In early Modern English "of" was a far more frequent preposition to follow a verb than it is today. It was often cognate with "from" with the idea of separating something from its owner.

    The tradition has continued and the Google Ngram is interesting showing "to repent of" to be consistently commoner: repent of,repent for

    Moreover, the Google Ngram "He repented *" (in which * gives any word that follows the phrase) shows "to repent of" to still be the commonest single term, closely followed by the unmodified intransitive form - although you would have to do the maths to see the overall frequency of the transitive form.