I have the sentence below:

"History is the witness that __________ passing of time."

a. testifies the
b. testifies for
c. will testify for
d. be meeting

I confidently answered a, but the correct answer is b. Why is it? Sorry, I'm not a native English speaker.

  • 4
    "History is the witness that testifies for passing of time" sounds wrong to me, and I'm a native speaker. "Passing" seems to be missing an article. Are you sure option b was not "testifies for the"?
    – herisson
    Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 3:47
  • @sumelic --> probably. Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 3:59
  • 3
    Very often when these type of multiple choice questions appear on this site, and none of the answers really fit, there is a typographical error. Please, triple-check that you copied everything correctly, and triple-check that the answer to this Q is, indeed, 'b'. Presumably you have a self-study book with the answers included, could you say what the title is and its author.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 4:55
  • 1
    Since this question is fundamentally flawed (in that it doesn't provide an option that reflects the normal wording of the statement at issue), it should probably be closed. But Peter Shor's answer is so sound and prospectively useful that I'd like to see the question remain open.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 6:12
  • 1
    It seems like all such tests should always include "none of the above" as an option.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 19:09

2 Answers 2


All of the potential answers are wrong. This is a famous quotation from Cicero. And it is invariably translated:

History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time.

(Or sometimes "history is the witness of the times", which may be closer to what Cicero meant.)

You testify for or against somebody, but you testify to a fact or event. So (b) and (c) are incorrect. And testify is generally an intransitive verb, so (a) is incorrect. And (d) is much worse than all of the other choices.

  • Upvote. If someone asks you to choose 1 out of only 4 choices above, you would choose b, right?
    – user140086
    Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 4:21
  • @Rathony: either (a) or (b). While (b) might be more grammatical, (a) does a better job of conveying the intended meaning. What (b) means is essentially: "history is in favor of letting time pass", which makes no sense. Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 11:32

You have to use for with ‘testify’, because the history is proving that the passing of the time has happened. It is proving "for" the passing of the time. Also, it is not possible to use the there without a preposition, because passing of the time is not a nominal clause, such as that clause or wh clause. The “passing of time” is a noun phrase.

  • I don't understand why this answer would get 2 downvotes. I can make it -1. Hmm...
    – user140086
    Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 5:04
  • @Mari-LouA I am not saying his way of explaining is inculpable. He has a point and that's all I care about. If he wrote "the" before history to describe the history in the sentence, do you find it still not good?
    – user140086
    Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 5:44
  • @Rathony It's not just one misuse of the article but several, and "you testify TO something", but "testify FOR someone". (Perhaps "testify for something" is grammatical in some dialects, perhaps in Indian English, I don't know)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 5:52
  • @Mari-LouA Absolutely. But the history in the sentence was personified as the witness. Why would you not agree with personification of passing of time? (Note: I upvoted Peter Shor's answer before I did this one). After your comment edition: "History is the witness who testifies on behalf of the passing of time." Would it be grammatically incorrect?
    – user140086
    Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 6:03
  • @Rathony I'd say so. But Opaque said nothing of the sort, and you have rewritten the original quotation without using the preposition "for" so I don't understand the point you are making. Note also, that you correctly wrote "passing of time" without the article, unlike Opaque.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 6:08

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