At first I wanted to ask this question in "ell.stackexchange.com", but then I came across the next article and understood that using "for" with "to advocate" can cause disagreements even for the native speakers:


The standard form of the verb "advocate" is transitive, meaning "endorse" or "argue for," as in "The teacher advocated a new educational technique", which was accepted by 85 percent of the Usage Panel in our 2014 survey. Many readers balk when the verb is used to express the same meaning in an intransitive form with the preposition "for": less than half (45 percent) of the Panel approved of "The teacher advocated for a new educational technique". The intransitive is more acceptable, however, when the object of "for" is the beneficiary of the advocacy rather than the idea or action being advocated: two-thirds of the Panel approved "The teacher advocated for her at-risk students". A careful writer will use transitive advocate in sentences indicating the idea or action, restricting the intransitive to sentences indicating the beneficiaries.

As I understood from the article:

— First, most people deem that "to advocate something" is correct and "to advocate for something" is not. Therefore, the next examples are better to say without "for" in spite of the fact that they are written with "for":


1. Those who advocate for doctor-assisted suicide say the terminally ill should not have to suffer.


2. The organization advocates for human rights.


3. They advocate publicly for stricter immigration controls.

Am I right?

— Second, most people deem that "to advocate for somebody" is correct and "to advocate somebody" is not. Therefore, the next example is better to say with "for":


4. a father who advocates for his disabled child

Am I right?

Does "advocates for" in 4. mean "supports"?

Can I say:

5. People advocated for their president when he decided to dissolve Parliament.



2 Answers 2


a1) 45% of the 2014 usage panel mentioned considered "The teacher advocated for a new educational technique" acceptable. That can hardly be used to justify ' "The teacher advocated for a new educational technique" is unacceptable' (or even 'borderline unacceptable'). It might fairly be claimed to suggest that it is advisable to choose instead "The teacher advocated a new educational technique". But note that 15% found even this unacceptable.

a2) One assumes that further examples were set before the usage panel, and that 'Many readers balk when the verb is used to express the same meaning in an intransitive form with the preposition "for" ' is thus a justifiable claim, but this is not made clear. A full reporting and analysis of the test is needed. Sometimes, switching from one prepositional object to another can have a marked effect on perceived acceptability. Such is English.


(b) '[T]wo-thirds of the Panel approved "The teacher advocated for her at-risk students" ' makes no statement about the perceived acceptability of "The teacher advocated her at-risk students" (any more than for the perceived acceptability of say "Kilroy woz here"). " Sometimes, V + DO and V + P + PO are both perfectly acceptable constructions (eg "He appealed [against] the decision"). We need say '(50 +x)% of the panel actually considered the intransitive usage, with the transitivising preposition for, the more acceptable one when referencing persons / people groups rather than ideologies / practices'.


That having been said, I'd certainly agree with the conclusions (taking them as solid guidelines rather than prescriptions), deficient though the arguments (as presented) seem. Perhaps the definitions

advocate [trans] recommend, endorse, stand for, champion, fight for [an idea / ideology / principle / cause / practice]


advocate [intrans] [+ for-phrase] fight on behalf of, intermediate [usu though not always a person or group of people: see new usage notes]

(with some improved usage notes!) would help to clarify the situation.

  1. Delete "for": They endorse or argue for it.
  2. Delete "for": Human rights are not the beneficiary. It argues for human rights.
  3. Delete "for" but re-order it: They publicly advocate stricter immigration controls.

  4. is right. I think what it means, more precisely, is 'advocates on behalf of'.

  5. could be either: They advocated him = they endorsed him. They advocated for him = they argued on his behalf.

(2. You could say, "He advocates for a human rights organization." They WOULD be beneficiaries.)

I think you've got it!

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