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

How do native English speakers use of them? Do they have different meanings? Positive or negative?

For example, I want to use it in a sentence to send my negative feelings and idea about a person who thinks all his characteristics and behaviors are showing "Iranian personality" and he has a special duty to introduce himself as a symbol of Iranian culture. But in my opinion no one can be a symbol of his/her nationality and he/she is only responsible for his/her own behaviors not a country or nation with many different idea owners and cultures.

share|improve this question
This question is a better fit for our sister site for English Language Learners. A native speaker is unlikely to use "instead of" to mean "on behalf of", and even less so in the scenario you describe. – RegDwigнt Feb 1 '13 at 21:12
So do you mean no one of these has negative meaning or can be used for ? – user36922 Feb 1 '13 at 21:25
In and of itself, a preposition is neutral. Absolutely everything can be given a negative connotation in context, though — you can insult someone by calling them smart, and you can stress a single article or preposition such that it will send someone off crying. What not absolutely everything can be made is sound grammatical and idiomatic, give or take any amount of context. So when you mean "on behalf of", you should really be using "on behalf of". – RegDwigнt Feb 1 '13 at 21:36
I got your mean. They are not negative nor positive but can be both according to the scenario or aim.Thank you! – user36922 Feb 1 '13 at 21:56
@Snowflake: Another common way of putting it (quite possibly the (most common way) is to say "You do not speak for all Iranians". But I don't think your assumption that no-one can ever claim speak for, on behalf of a larger community is particularly useful. If that's what someone is intending to do, then unless someone else jumps up and says "I am one of that community, and he does not speak for me!", I think it's reasonable to take it at face value. – FumbleFingers Feb 1 '13 at 23:55
up vote 1 down vote accepted

While I disagree with your assertion that nobody can speak on behalf of a collective, that is the correct usage. Other ways to say "on behalf of" would include:

  • He's (speaking) in place of [x]
  • He's (speaking) in [x]'s stead
  • He's (speaking) for all of [x]
  • He's (speaking) on behalf of [x]
  • He's (speaking) representatively for [x]

Where the general idea is that the subject perceives (often correctly) that [x], in this case Iran as a gestalt entity, can't do something, in this case speak, for themselves. The subject takes it upon themselves - or has it put upon him - to do that something themselves. A diplomat is a professional at speaking on behalf of his country, and so is anyone employed in Public Relations for a company.

When someone incorrectly thinks they represent a group in something, people will often say that he or she doesn't speak for that group of people. In this case, you claim that nobody can speak for a group of people. I disagree with that, but that's the grammatically correct way of saying it.

"Instead of", though close to a valid way to express your idea, isn't what you want to say. "Instead of" compares two equally-valid options and choose one over the other. Your intended implication doesn't fit this statement, because you're identifying him as an intended representative of Iran, not as another country. You might say you went on vacation to India instead of Iran. That would be the proper usage, because you're comparing two countries. A person isn't comparable with a country, so the phrasing is subtly different.

share|improve this answer
Thank you rsegal. It is completely clear for me now. – user36922 Feb 2 '13 at 12:22

"I respect your opinions, but you imply that you speak on behalf of all (fill in nationality)."

The 'instead of' doesn't make sense here.

share|improve this answer
JowTaxpayer, You are right! It doesn't make sense. In addition I have to mention It is a little difficult for a non native English speaker to be direct but not rude when she/he critiques someone or something specially in an academic place or a sensitive public atmosphere. Surely it is a kind of art in any language and needs special skills but it becomes harder when you talk in English/ or any other languages as your second language. – user36922 Feb 2 '13 at 12:39
Critiquing, regardless of setting or first language, isn't easy. It's a skill to do it well, and without offense. – JoeTaxpayer Feb 2 '13 at 14:03
JoeTaxpayer,I agree with you. That is completely right and thanks to edit my long sentences in one simple sentence by your reply. – user36922 Feb 3 '13 at 0:39
@SnowFlake - You are most welcome, and welcome to Stack Exchange. – JoeTaxpayer Feb 3 '13 at 0:49
Joe Taxpayer, Thank you very much ! ;).. – user36922 Feb 3 '13 at 17:46

Your Answer


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