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I always believed that uses of the phrase "provide for" in such sentences as the following three are considered wrong and they should be replaced by "provide." I have been seeing and hearing them so often, however, that I am not so sure anymore.

Would you say they are used properly below?

(a) The facilities in Boulder provides for sweeping views of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.

(b) The earthquake forecasts produced using the Gutenberg-Richter law provide for a good general guide to the hazard in an area.

(c) Statistical methods like these can provide for crude but usable forecasts.

Thank you.

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  • All three would be better if "for" was removed.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 9, 2021 at 23:40

3 Answers 3

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I'd use "provide" without "for" in all cases.

Generally you "provide something" where you are talking about supplying a good or product, but "provide for someone" or "provide for some situation or eventuality". Views, guides, and forecasts are things that are provided, not eventualities. Because they're somewhat abstract it's a bit less clear than providing a lunch or a reference. You provide for an outcome (because that's an eventuality) but provide a forecast of an outcome (which is a thing that happens to be about an eventuality). But "provide" without "for" is commonly used with abstract things: "providing privacy" or "security".

Source is Merriam-Webster, which maybe makes it clearer:

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I don't like (a) and (b). (c) is possible but I'm not sure what you want it to mean.

To provide (transitive) and to provide for (intransitive) have a large area of overlap in meaning but are separated in certain contexts:

(Transitive)The instructions are not rules, but they do provide guidance. -> to provide = to supply, to give, to sustain, etc.

(Intransitive) The instructions are not rules, and they do provide for exceptions and special circumstances. To provide for = to make provision or allowance for some possible future event; to take future possibilities into consideration, etc.

OED

>To provide (v.)

>III. To supply someone; to equip with the necessary resources.

>8. a. intransitive. To make provision for a person or animal, esp. with regard to maintenance; to supply the necessary resources. Frequently in prepositional passive.

1949 M. Mead Male & Female ix. 190 Man, the heir of tradition, provides for women and children.

>b. intransitive. To supply the necessary resources for a thing to happen or exist.

2000 N.Y. Rev. Bks. 15 June 18/1 Harry..darts away and will return with money which will provide for an astonishing trip to London.

>10. transitive. To supply (a person, animal, place, etc.) with something. Frequently in passive.

1954 J. Corbett Temple Tiger 115 I have repeatedly asserted that tigers have no sense of smell, and the cubs were providing me with ample proof of that assertion.

1990 S. Fraser in M. Kurc That reminds Me xi. 45 Since we were all so famous, no one had provided us with namecards.

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  • Do these quotations provide an answer to the OP's question or only provide for an answer?
    – jsw29
    Feb 9, 2021 at 22:23
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The OP is probably right in believing that (a) and (b) would better reflect the intentions of their respective writers if for were deleted, but it is difficult to be completely sure about that.

In the sense that is relevant here, to provide for X means to create the conditions that make X possible. If X has been provided for, X may or may not actually happen; whether X will happen depends on some further conditions (e.g. on whether people will avail themselves of the opportunities for X). On the other side, if X has been provided (without for), then it follows that nothing further is necessary for X to happen, it's already there.

Now, consider the OP's first example. Somebody could have meant by it that the facilities make it possible to enjoy the views, but that they don't guarantee it: you have to be there at the right time of the day, under the right weather conditions, not too distracted, etc., in order to actually enjoy the views. If that is what was on the writer's mind, then provide for is fine; otherwise plain provide would have been better.

Similarly, somebody could have meant by (b) that the forecasts make it possible to have a good guide to the hazards, but that they will lead to it only if one has adequate background knowledge, the ability to receive and interpret the forecasts quickly, etc. If that is what was on the writer's mind, then provide for is fine; otherwise plain provide would have been better.

In case of (c), chances are that the author did mean that the methods make the forecasts possible, but that they will lead to such forecasts only if one has expertise in applying the methods to the relevant subject matter. The methods do not produce the forecasts by themselves. In that case, provide for probably does reflect the author's intentions.

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