I made a very serious effort to locate the name of this song, and to find more info on it. Sadly, I was unable to. All I have is this YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWTF6nRqNvU

It appears to be a folk song from the 1500s from England, or something like that. The point is, some of the lyrics go:

Well, sixteen years old, that's too young for to marry.

"For to marry"? Was this ever "valid"/common English? Is it still? I'd expect "to get married", but even in "old-timey" English terms, this sounds odd to me.


1 Answer 1


"For to marry"? Was this ever "valid"/common English?

Yes, it was. "For + substantive" still has the meaning of (1) "for the purpose of + substantive" or (2)"in order + to infinitive".

However, the to-infinitive, which has the properties of a gerund, is rarely used with "for" in this sense.

"We can use the iron bar for lifting it." or "We can use the iron bar in order to lift it." (Old version "for to lift it.")

Yale Grammatical Diversity Project English in North America

For to infinitives

"I'm goin' to Louisiana, My true love for to see." - Oh! Susanna, by Stephen Foster

For to infinitives are verbs introduced by for to where Standard English would use to, as in (1) (Henry 1995):

  1. I want for to meet them.

In Standard English, it is common to introduce a clause containing an infinitive with for if the verb has a subject, as in (2), where Alex comes between for and to:

  1. I want for Alex to meet them.

The non-standard for to construction usually refers to sentences where there is no intervening subject, like (1).

Edit to add:

There is an interesting paper on the history of "for to verb" at http://www.public.asu.edu/~gelderen/forto.htm

  • I suspect that in some of the later recorded instances, absent pretensions to folk idiom, the extra syllable may have been wanted for meter (as when "expletives their feeble aids do join," as Pope put it): e.g., "And are you going a ticket for to buy?" in Gilbert & Sullivan's comic opera Patience (1881). Nov 28, 2020 at 15:42

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