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First of all, English is not my first language. I have a question, maybe a basic one, about this phrase:

The situation highlights the mismatch between some areas of training and available jobs to/for them.

Should it be "available jobs to them" or "available jobs for them"?

Sorry if the question is really basic.

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The more normal form(s) would be jobs available to/for them (where either preposition would be fine). It so happens that idiomatically you can (just about!) recast the phrase as available jobs for them, but you can't use "to them" in that way. –  FumbleFingers Apr 24 '12 at 22:30
    
...the reason for that difference seems tricky to me, but I think it's to do with the fact that "available jobs" means jobs available to/for anybody. Essentially, available is just an adjective not directly connected to them, akin to, say, well-paid. And no-one would even think of saying "well-paid jobs to them" –  FumbleFingers Apr 24 '12 at 22:40

5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

OP's sentence is poor English regardless of which preposition is used. A more natural version is...

...mismatch between some areas of training and the jobs [that are] available to them.

(for could be used instead of to above - it's largely a matter of style).

Note that available jobs uses available as a simple "stand-alone" adjective. Grammatically we could only explicitly link it to them using some contrived form such as "available-to-them" jobs, but this isn't normally necessary since context invariably makes it clear who the jobs are available to (or not, as the case may be), so "they" don't actually need to be explicitly mentioned.

In light of the above, I would say that although technically speaking it's "grammatical" to write...

...mismatch between some areas of training and available jobs for them. (note - "to" is always invalid)

...this is only in the same way that "hourly-paid jobs for them" is grammatical. Those jobs really are "hourly-paid" to anyone, not just if worked by "them". By the same token, OP's jobs are "available" to anyone, not just "them".

But whereas jobs hourly-paid to/for them probably makes no sense, jobs available to/for them does. So we're drawn to erroneously interpret OP's available as semantically applying to them, even though grammatically it doesn't.

Thus structurally OP's sentence encourages mis-parsing, and should be avoided.

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The situation highlights the mismatch between some areas of training and available jobs to/for them.

Best is to rewrite the sentence.

The situation highlights the mismatch between some areas of training and the number of available jobs.

Second best:

The situation highlights the mismatch between some areas of training and available jobs for them.

Bad:

The situation highlights the mismatch between some areas of training and available jobs to them.

Jobs can be available to people (jobseekers). Jobs cannot be available to areas of training.

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  • We have {jobs} available to them.
  • We have {available jobs} for them.
  • We have {jobs} available for them to apply.
  • We have {jobs} made available to them.


  • We have {lotion} available to them.
  • We have {available lotion} for them.
  • We have {lotion} available for them to apply.
  • We have {lotion} made available to them.


Since

We have {lotion} available for them to apply.

could be shortened to

We have {lotion} available for them.

we can also shorten

We have jobs available for them to apply.

to

We have jobs available for them.


However, for reasons of clarity, you should use

jobs available to them

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Both prepositions are fine here as long as you keep the prepositions next to the adjective available. So it should be training and jobs available to/for them. [edited to emphasize the need to recast as per FumbeleFingers' comment]

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-1: Both prepositions are fine if and only if you recast the sentence. On a tortured interpretation, "for" is almost/just about grammatical in OP's exact context, but "to" definitely isn't. –  FumbleFingers Apr 25 '12 at 1:15

The sentence is essentially about the 'situation' and its impact on 'them'.

When the subject is the question of availability of jobs, to seems the most logical choice. On the other hand, if we were discussing about "them", then for would be appropriate.

Here the former is obviously the case, so it is fine the way it is.

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