English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

1: In avoiding failure, we must be careful.

2: For avoiding failure, we must be careful.

What are the subtle differences between the two sentences?

share|improve this question
up vote 5 down vote accepted

The idiomatic way of writing that is:

To avoid failure, we must be careful

That means that in order not to fail, we must be careful.

"For avoiding failure, we must be careful" is an unusual way of expressing the same idea.

Using for in that way is normally to express a recommendation:

For a healthy life, eat fresh fruit and vegetables.

Using a gerund with for is OK, but it is more normal to use to + infinitive

For getting up the mountain, we will use crampons. [OK]

To get up the mountain, we will use crampons. [Better]

"In avoiding failure, we must be careful." Is wrong.

In avoiding failure needs to be followed by a consequence of avoiding failure. For example

In avoiding failure, we have become the things we hate.

Using in in that way should be done like so:

In [doing X], we have [created consequence[s] Y[, etc.]].

share|improve this answer
You could have the "wrong" one as part of a valid phrase like, "Avoiding risk can be the surest way to avoid failure, but in avoiding failure we must be careful not to find we have equally avoided success." – Jon Hanna Jan 21 '13 at 20:59

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.