The following two sentences are patentese (written in language used in a patent):

A display apparatus includes a display device for displaying an image.

The display apparatus may include an optical film for limiting reflection of external, ambient light.

In 'normal' general English, I would say that writing "to display" and "to limit" sounds more natural, where the "to" is short for "in order to", thus using the << noun + "to (in order to)" + infinitive >> noun phrase construction instead. Also, acceptable would be << noun + "for the purpose of" + gerund >>, but this is perhaps unnecessarily long-winded.

Doing a search online gives acceptable examples of the noun phrase construction << noun + "for" + gerund >> used in titles, for example:

A simple method for displaying the hydropathic character of a protein

Options for Limiting the Potential to Emit (PTE) of a Stationary Source Under Section 112 and Title V of the Clean Air Act (CAA)

For these titles (that are a noun phrase standalone construction without a verb), the << noun + "for" + gerund >> construction is valid and sounds natural to me, but what about if we change these into a normal sentence including verbs, for example:

We describe a simple method for displaying the hydropathic character of a protein.

There are options for limiting the potential to emit (PTE) of a stationary source under Section 112 and Title V of the Clean Air Act (CAA).

The latter quoted sentence sounds fine, but the former sounds a bit unnatural to me due to the << noun + "for" + gerund >> construction within.

[[My original question, referred to these two quotes of titles with this unintentionally misleading comment: But these seem to be missing a verb, if what is intended is a normal complete sentence.]]

So, I'd like to ask: Are the first two sentences quoted above acceptable? Do they sound natural? If not, why not and what are the best alternatives?

  • You quote four sentences, not two. Where do you need help? Your own sentence both have an include verb, so you're all set.The others are titles, which are rarely sentences. Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 19:14
  • Patentese is a very ideosyncratic style, it often sounds unnatural. But if you're writing a patent, I think you're expected to use this traditional style.
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 20:51
  • @YosefBaskin I meant the first two I quoted and have amended my question to clearly point that out. The fact they contain a verb is not the issue. My question is whether the noun phrase quoted is valid in the examples which are normal sentences (with a verb, etc), rather than in a title (which itself acts like a standalone noun phrase). Thank you.
    – Owen
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 1:08
  • It is generally not wrong to substitute 'noun + to + verb' with 'noun + for + gerund' in such cases, even though it might sound rather awkward at times. In fact 'noun + for + gerund' is more appropriate in some cases like 'what's your reason for asking this question?' ('what's your reason to ask this question' would sound awkward.) One reason for using 'for + gerund' in your example sentences would be as a short form of for the purpose of (displaying / limiting etc), the purpose of the proposed design being a key component of the statement for the purposes of patents. Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 22:29
  • A fork is a device for eating. A fork is not a device to eat. (Just kidding.) ;-)
    – Drew
    Commented Jul 1, 2017 at 22:51

2 Answers 2


The first two sentence are good for displaying your question. However, you use display three times (if we include displaying), which is repetitious. How about "a special device for displaying ..."?

There is a difference between to display and for displaying, and you have the right one to my ear. Use 'to act' in such settings to mean a direct cause and effect, not just an option:

I work to get paid. That is the reason I work.

Use for acting to mean you are offering an option that could be used for that purpose:

I have a rag for cleaning my desk. Remind me to do just that—perhaps next year.

  • 1
    Note that 'I have a rag to clean my desk' is fine, while 'I work for getting paid' is unacceptable. Commented Mar 12 at 11:43

They're not complete sentences by themselves, and titles seldom are; I definitely don't think I've ever seen a research paper with the title as a full sentence (think of how you'd label a list: "Items for school", "Places to visit", "Required for playing piano", etc.). Even modifying it to use an infinitive doesn't lead to a perfect sentence. It's either missing a subject or a predicate, depending on how you look at it.

It definitely sounds natural to me, since for is very commonly used to imply purpose or intent. And IMHO it definitely sounds less clumsy and awkward than "in order to" or "for the purpose of"; just because you can expand a single word into a long phrase doesn't mean it's correct to do so.

  • These don't look like titles to me, Why do you think they're not complete sentence? They each have a subject and a predicate.
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 20:47
  • Subject = A display apparatus, verb = includes, object = a display device for displaying an image
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 20:49
  • My issue is that the first two sentences I quoted sound a little unnatural, and have amended my question to clearly point that out. I have no issue with titles not being a complete normal sentence. I have edited that part of my question, to clarify what I meant.
    – Owen
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 1:51
  • OK, but his question is about the first two, your answer is about 3 and 4. Read the last paragraph, which starts with "So, I'd like to ask:".
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 2:13

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