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Do "justification of" or "justification for" mean different things? Is one more appropriate than the other?

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Not that this answers your question, but here are the Ngrams results – Armen Ծիրունյան Feb 8 '12 at 16:04
up vote 4 down vote accepted

If you are describing the action being justified, say "justification for". If you are identifying the person offering the justification or being justified, say "justification of".

For example, "What was Bob's justification for arriving late?" vs "We listened to Bob's justification of himself."

The same is true when the word is used in a theological context. "We receive justification for our sins through the atoning work of Christ" vs "The justification of the sinner is received ..."

Or if you're thinking of "justification" in the sense of the placement of text on a line, you should always use "of". "The justification of the customer name on the form is determined by ..."

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+1 because there seems to be some truth here. To the extent that "of/for" aren't 100% interchangeable in a "justification of/for [noun being justified]" construction, I think there's a slight tendency to use "of" rather than "for" where [noun] is an entire individual rather than some specific behaviour, theory, etc. I don't think that tendency is particularly strong, but I certainly think there's justification for saying that in this actual sentence it would have been totally unacceptable to have used "of". – FumbleFingers Feb 8 '12 at 17:17

There is a slight difference.

Example 1

Justification of Eintein's Theory of relativity is quite complicated.


Example 2

Justification for Eintein's Theory of relativity was given by someone whose name I don't remember.

But if you say the example 1 "for", something feels a bit awkward.

Example 1b

Justification for Einstein's Theory of relativity is quite complicated.

However, if you use "for" in example 2 you don't really feel a difference.

Example 2b

Justification of Eintein's Theory for relativity was given by someone whose name I don't remember.

Hope I haven't confused you.

My point is, use whatever (of or for) without hesitation.

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You bring up a case I hadn't considered in my answer: Justifying a thing, like an idea as opposed to justifying for an action. In that case "of" makes more sense and I think (anecdotally, without checking any stats) is preferred, though most of the time either seems to "sound right". As in, "Our justification of this protest march is ..." or "... for this protest march ..." both seem okay. But "Our justifcation of marching in protest ..." wouldn't be correct, you should say "for marching ..." – Jay Feb 9 '12 at 18:21

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