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The following two phrases are both perfectly correct:

  1. long for your return
  2. hope for your return

but only the first of the following phrases sounds correct:

  1. long for you to return
  2. hope for you to return

Why? Their grammatical structures are identical. Is it just a colloquial difference with no particular reasons? Or, is there some significant background behind the difference?

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    All four sound perfectly natural to me (native speaker of AmE; NYC area). I'd say that "hope for your return" is slightly darker or sadder than "long for your return", because the latter implies your return is guaranteed, if not any time soon, whereas the former holds open the possibility you'll never return (imagine saying this to a family member in the military who is about to go to war).
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 15:08
  • @DanBron Interesting! (I'm not a native speaker but accustomed to BrE.) I completely agree with your point of the darker (or ominous) nuance about "hope for your return". Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 23:09

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Different verbs require different means of adding complements to them. They may also differ based on whether the complement is a noun phrase or a verb phrase and may have more than one possibility, depending on the precise meaning. The differences are loosely connected to the meanings of the verbs, but are not really predictable.

You can say:

I want your return

I dream of/about your return

I am happy about/for your return

I look forward to your return

I long for your return

I hope for your return

But you typically say:

I want you to return

I dream of/about you(r) returning

I am happy about you(r) returning/for you to return/that you're returning

I look forward to you(r) returning

I long for you to return

I hope (that) you return.

To my ear (native speaker of AmE, mid-Atlantic), "I hope for you to return" sounds slightly off, as a loose mixture of two different structures. I could easily imagine a native speaker saying it, but would probably edit it to "I hope you return" if I stopped and thought about it. A quick Google search seems to confirm my intuition.

I think that the verbs that require "for you to xxx" as a complement also require that the complement depend on the main verb. The verb "hope" presupposes that the existence of the complement is not dependent on your hope and so using this structure sounds slightly off. This is precisely the difference between being "happy about you(r) returning" and "happy for you to return." The second expression describes the return as contingent on the happiness; whereas the first expression describes the return as causing happiness.

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  • I'm think that the introduction of other examples ("dream of", "happy about", etc.) actually cloud the issue of the difference between "long for" and "hope for". Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 22:16
  • Great analysis. I (accustomed to BrE) basically agree with all your points, except I'm not sure about "happy for you to return"; can't it mean "I can happily return for your sake"? In other words, isn't it confusing with "I am happy to return for (the sake of) you"? After reading your answer, I am now beginning to think a difference is "I hope so for you" is fine, whereas "I long so for you" is unnatural. What do you think? Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 23:18
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    The difference between "I hope so for you" and "I long so for you" is an excellent idea and an excellent diagnostic! As for "happy for you to return," I think it can mean "happy, to return for your sake" in only a marginal way. "Happy, for your sake, to return" is more acceptable, but would require a heavy change in intonation. "Happy for you" and "for you to return" both have meanings that conflict with "for your sake," and so I would always edit "for you" to "for your sake" if you had to put it into the middle of the phrase "happy....to return." Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 15:06
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    To be clearer, "for your sake" means "transferring a benefit to you." "Happy for you" means "you" are causing an emotion in someone else, and "for you to return" refers to your action and can't normally refer to a benefit you passively receive. Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 15:08
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    Yes, that is why I listed so many constructions above where “for” did not necessarily appear in all of them even with the same word. There are also different nuances. “I hope for your safe return” sounds like it is borrowing a construction from “praying for your safe return.” and is slightly less assertive than “I hope you (will) return safely” or is inversion “you will return safely, I hope.” Commented Jan 26, 2022 at 2:16

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