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I want to book some past days as time off via a time tracking system, and there is a reply message:

Cannot book time off for past days.

(Meaning that I should have booked time off before leaving, not after leaving.)

I wonder whether for is used correctly here. I just see "book something for someone", "book something on some day", and have never seen "book something for some day" before.

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2  
What other preposition would you expect? –  Barrie England Oct 19 '12 at 10:44
3  
"For" seems the correct preposition to me. –  user21497 Oct 19 '12 at 11:24
    
@banh: I think too "For" is correct.......! –  Himanshu Agnihotri Oct 19 '12 at 12:05
    
General Reference - "for" here simply means in respect of –  FumbleFingers Oct 19 '12 at 16:10
    
"I booked my vacation/the dinner reservation for tomorrow" are extremely common. Google "book dinner for tomorrow". –  Merk Oct 19 '12 at 20:07

4 Answers 4

If you do X "on" day Y, then Y is the date on which event X occurs. But if you do X "for" day Y, then Y is a date associated with event X, not necessarily the date on which you did it.

So if you said, "I was vacationing ON March 1", people would understand you to mean that March 1 is the date you were actually away from work.

If you said, "I entered a vacation day into the timekeeping system ON March 1", we would understand that March 1 was the date that you typed your vacation information into the computer, not the day that you will be away from the office. We do not know what day you will be away.

If you said, "I entered a vacation day into the timekeeping system FOR March 1", we would understand that March 1 is the day that you will be away from work. We do not know what day you typed it into the computer.

It would be quite reasonable to say, "I entered a vacation day into the timekeeping system on March 1 for April 12." That is, on March 1 you typed it in. The day you will be vacationing is April 12.

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The most fundamental meaning of for not modified in any way.

You can book (reserve) time off (holidays) for (concerning) three days (a period), starting next Monday. (in the future).

You can't reserve a time that is already past - your booking is not applicable for past days.

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The preposition for has several meanings, so it may be hard to find an instance where it's used by a credible source wrongly. (Maybe it's simply being used in a way that's unfamiliar to you.)

Macmillan lists 19 definitions for the word for, but I think the one you want is #4:

enter image description here

Booking vacation time, then, would be a legitimate context for this sense of the word.

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The OED’s definition 26 of for is ‘As regards, with regard or respect to, concerning.’ That seems to me to cover the use in your example.

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