Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Background

Reading this post, I realized that I had a tendency to use "typical for" rather than "typical of".

After a quick research, reading through several sources on the web, I found that the more I read, the more I got confused. I felt like there is no established rules to state which one is more appropriate, in which occasion.

I even found the two usages in the same BBC's article,

"The painting is a little a-typical for Van Gogh because of the many people appearing on it but also very typical because of the prominent role for the mill."

"But he added that other elements of the the work, with its bright colours lathered roughly on the canvas, was typical of Van Gogh's style at the time he was living in Paris."

The searches for "typical of" and "typical for" here (EL&U) both returned substantial results, though "typical of" appears to be in favor.

Confusion

Trying to make sense of it, I was about to conclude that I should use "of" when the typicality is something intrinsic (a property or a character of what was talked about), and use "for" when such typicality should be viewed extrinsically. As these two examples from Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary,

This meal is typical of local cookery. (intrinsic)
A typical working day for me begins at 7.30. (extrinsic)

But soon I felt abash when I found someone mentioned question 7 in this English Grammar Test, Elementary Level # 71,

Such bad behavior is typical .......... the spoiled child.

a) for
b) with
c) about
d) of

The question was listed under "british vs. american english", implying that each dialect prefers one usage over another. But I have a feeling that it might turn out to be untrue.

Is there any good rule of thumb for the usage of typical for vs. typical of?

share|improve this question
    
All your examples with people use typical for, and with abstractions use typical of. I don't know whether this is a rule or not. –  Peter Shor Nov 28 '13 at 19:04
    
@PeterShor, thanks. That is precisely the way I considered them (I thought of them as actors and non-actors) before I abstracted the concept into intrinsic vs. extrinsic. –  Damkerng T. Nov 28 '13 at 19:07
1  
If it is a rule, it certainly is not a rigid one … you can easily find exceptions in both directions with Google. –  Peter Shor Nov 28 '13 at 19:09

2 Answers 2

I'd say 'That's typical of him' would be far more common than the alternative.

However, in 'This meal is typical of local cookery', 'is typical of' can be replaced by 'is a typical example of'.

While in 'This meal is typical for the area', 'is typical for' can be replaced by 'is representative of what can be found [produced] in/by'.

Usage does seem rather unpredictable. Perhaps 'That's [just] typical of him' should be regarded as an idiomatic usage, and the two substitution-tests above taken as a rule of thumb.

share|improve this answer

You intrinsic/extrinsic test seems to describe how I handle the of/for issue with typical. Here's a look at the relative frequencies of the two constructions. Google Ngram Viewernter image description here

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

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.