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The following common expressions are in the form of for in conjunction with an adjective:

  • (give/take) for granted
  • (leave) for dead
  • for better/worse
  • for sure/certain

There doesn't seem to be anything else of the same pattern in modern usage. I guess they're just set expressions handed down to us from the olden days. But is there a rationale behind the construction at all, from either historical or contemporary grammar?

I had a look in the OED for clues, but couldn't find any. In fact, Definition 19b under for shows more specimens that make me even more curious of the underlying logic that perhaps you could provide or speculate. For if I were to encounter phrases of such construction in the wild, in old books most likely, how would I attempt to understand their meanings?

Maria Edgeworth, Moral Tales, 1801:

Frederick, as soon as he had finished this speech, which he pronounced in a peremptory tone, left the room; and Laniska's friends, who perceived that the imprudent words he had uttered in Berlin had reached the king's ear, gave the young man up for lost.

Coventry Patmore, The Angel in the House, 1858:

She had forgot to bring a book.
I lent one; blamed the print for old;
And did not tell her that she took
A Petrarch worth its weight in gold.

  • 'For ever' has become one word : forever. It's the dative case. And I think they are nouns (or participles) not adjectives. – Nigel J Aug 20 at 12:19
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    Just compare German versichern "to insure", versichert "insured, guaranteed; There are thousands of mostly verbs prefixed with ver- in various senses; für gut [befinden] is seemingly the one and only strict parallel to for + [ADJ]. Or maybe simply consider Latin pro bono etc, profile, premisses. These probably stem from Indo-European pre-verbal constructions that fossilized and changed. for sure rather reminds of per se, (perhaps in the sense as far as I'm sure; just saying because of Ger *sicher and sich, respectively. – vectory Aug 20 at 13:15
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    'Give up for lost' is the same idea as 'leave for dead', where for means on the assumption that they are, and I suppose 'take for granted' is the same. – Kate Bunting Aug 20 at 18:10

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