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When can you leave the word "for" out of a sentence?

Examples:

  1. They have been married ten years.
  2. They have not had a holiday for ten years.

I have searched for an answer to this question, but Bing, Google and Duckduckgo don't recognize for as a search term but as a filler word.

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  • This may be related but less in-depth: english.stackexchange.com/questions/60566/… Aug 31, 2022 at 23:41
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    @TaliesinMerlin We keep having to explain to non-native speakers of English that in certain English predicates, noun phrases serving as measure phrases of time can sometimes function as adverbial adjuncts without any preposition whatsoever, but I can't find the canonical duplicate. “I waited five minutes. I bet we answered this sort of question just last week, and I imagine we'll answer it a week from now as well.” And forevermore. :)
    – tchrist
    Sep 1, 2022 at 0:52
  • @tchrist But which ones? Sep 1, 2022 at 20:23
  • Is the 'live' in 'he only lived a few days after the accident' intrasitive or transitive? addresses the issue, but I'm sure that a comprehensive list of idiomatic/grammatical {[verb] + [surface NP]} pairings would be hard to find and explain. And then the negativisers must be considered. Sep 2, 2022 at 18:16

1 Answer 1

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It is better to search in reference works than only in Google, Bing and other search sites. To regard "for" merely as a filler is incomplete and misleading. The following material is extracted from the Cambridge discussion of for as a preposition. It also acts as a conjunction.

In the following examples, only where I indicate {for} may it be removed with no corruption of meaning. This accords with a comment from tchrist, which deals with measures of time; it also applies to measures of distance, as in the Cambridge example.

Cambridge

intended to be given to
There's a phone message for you

having the purpose of
the books are not for sale

because of or as a result of something
She did 15 years in prison for murder

used to show an amount of time or distance
We walked {for} miles
She's out of the office {for} a few days next week

on the occasion of or at the time of
What did you buy him for Christmas?

used for comparing one thing with others of the same type
For every two people in favour of the law there are three against

used to say whose responsibility something is
the driver of the other car was not responsible for her son's death

in support of or in agreement with
I've got nothing against change - I'm all for it

in order to help someone
Let me carry those bags for you

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  • I can go with She's out of the office {for} a few days next week, but not I haven't seen her {a few} days. Sep 2, 2022 at 18:21
  • @EdwinAshworth A sound counter - example. I also had a similar difficulty with the fourth Cambridge example, which I did not quote: "I haven't played tennis for years". Do you think there is a general secondary rule to catch these exceptions? I can't presently contrive one.
    – Anton
    Sep 2, 2022 at 18:26
  • You can go mad trying to apply rules everywhere, and if some omniscience did, there would soon be a new exception. I'd guess that papers if not books have been written on prepositional deletion. Sep 3, 2022 at 18:37
  • @EdwinAshworth We have done the best we can. We can aspire to no more. Thanks.
    – Anton
    Sep 3, 2022 at 21:11

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