How can for be classed as a coördinating conjunction in the following instances?

  • I cannot give you any money, for I have none.
  • He deserved to succeed, for he worked hard.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

In those sentences, for can easily be replaced with because. When because is used as a subordinating conjunction, how can for be classed as a coördinating conjunction? Just look at the first sentence for example:

I cannot give you any money.

I have none.

The second sentence derives its meaning from the first sentence. It is subordinate to the first sentence, and therefore 'for' should be a Subordinating Conjunction in such a case, shouldn't it?

  • For has the same meaning and function (in that case) as because or since. So it is definitely a coordinating conjunction.
    – Robusto
    Mar 7, 2015 at 14:12
  • I think the simple answer is "because" is a subordinating conjunction and "for" a coordinating. They work very much the same way as you suggested in your own examples that how one could be replaced with the other without changing the meaning of the sentence. for, or, nor, so ,yet, and and are some of the most common coordinating conjunctions. Mar 7, 2015 at 14:56
  • 1
    But is a coordinating conjunction with a presupposition; it really means and, but we don't think it "means the same" because it presupposes that some expectation of the speaker is not met. For is always listed among the coordinating conjunctions, but it's really not used much any more. It's consciously archaic, and its use signals either a quotation or an attempt to appear dignified and authoritative. Mar 7, 2015 at 15:47
  • What for means is of course because, but its syntax is problematic, because it's not part of most speakers' competence. Though it certainlly can't prepose: *For I don't have any money, I can't give you any. Whereas because would work fine. That's the only test I can think of for coordinating vs subordinating. Mar 7, 2015 at 15:49
  • All: The original question relates 'for' with 'because' only for referring to the relatively similar function they play as a conjunction. My main question remains why for is not classed as a subordinating conjunction when it is performing the job of adding two clauses of different ranks, where one clause is conspicuously dependent on the other. Yes, John it is not much in use now, I know. I just am a tad bit curious. Mar 8, 2015 at 15:40

3 Answers 3


In general, subordinating conjunctions become part of the subordinated clause they create, which means the position of the subordinated clause (including the conjunction) in the sentence relative to the other (main) clause can change. Coordinating conjunctions, however, must remain between the two clauses (or whatever elements).

In the case of "for" and "because", any instance of "for" can be replaced (on the surface) with "because" and it will still read properly. But not every instance of "because" can be replaced with "for":

"Because I have a wife of my own, I cannot marry you."

is fine, while this is not:

"For I have a wife of my own, I cannot marry you."

"For" must always come between the two clauses. [added later: This means it does not form part of the clause that follows it, so there is no subordinate clause; both clauses are independent clauses "coordinated" by the conjunction "for".

"Because", on the other hand, becomes part of the clause, "because I have a wife of my own". That clause cannot stand on its own as a sentence, so we say it is subordinate to the main clause, "I cannot marry you". That means "because" is a subordinating conjunction.

To your examples, these sentences are bad English:

  • *"For I have no money, I cannot give you any."
  • *"For he worked hard, he deserved to succeed."
  • *"For the blessed shall obtain mercy, they are blessed."



The essential difference between coordinated clauses and subordinated clauses is that a subordinated clause can be omitted without breaking the logical connection, while coordinated clauses can't. Consequently you can't tell the difference from a single sentence. So it's "I cannot give you money, because I have none. Try Jimmy - he might give you some.' but 'I cannot give you money, for I have none. I spent my last few coins on a cheese sandwich.' If the next sentence connects to the consequence, use 'because'; if it connects to the cause, use 'for'.


As to the conjunction for "indicating" reason there is no feature in English to decide whether it is a coordinating or a subordinating conjunction. When you find the label coordinating conjunction somewhere then it is arbitary because a reason for such a label can't be given.

In German the case is different. When the verb of the clause is in end position then you have subordination. After denn (for, conjunction) you have normal word order and coordination. But such a feature is not found in English.

Longman's DCE labels "for" only as conjunction.

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