Mistake or grammatical variation?

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From reader B.D.:

I ran across this sentence today on a news website and thought that you might find it interesting:

"The accident caused for two lanes and one inbound express lane to be blocked."

I was able to find a few other examples of "caused for" from news sites using Google News:

"Philadelphia has been looking to start a fire sale at the deadline, but a lot of their demands have caused for teams to back away from making deals."

"A trend called the “Fire Challenge” made popular through social media websites caused for a 14-year from the Crosby area to be hospitalized with second-degree burns to his body."

This is new to me and I'm curious if it's a recent phenomenon.

It's true that there's some unexpected variation in verbal complementation Out There, and maybe there are some people who think that the pattern of "arranged for X to Y" to apply to "caused for X to Y". But I'm inclined to think that these examples are slips of the fingers or maybe editing errors.

 

 

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46 Comments »

  1. John Lawler said,

    August 2, 2014 @ 11:38 am

    Just a couple quick lists of verbs relevant to this construction, all from Levin's verb list; there are many more of each.

    Verbs that optionally allow V for X to VP
    call
    choose
    vote
    decide
    arrange
    allow
    want
    provide
    need

    Verbs that do not allow V for X to VP
    *demand
    *pick
    *get
    *assign
    *select
    *trust
    *equip
    *guarantee
    *insist
    *promise
    *offer

  2. Julian Hook said,

    August 2, 2014 @ 11:50 am

    I wonder if this phenomenon could have something to do with the fact that the verb "cause" looks just like the noun "cause", and the noun often appears with "for" ("a cause for celebration", "no cause for concern"). "A cause for X to VP" may be less common, but I don't think it's impossible; I can imagine a politician talking about "a cause for Congress to act" or "a cause for the president to be impeached".

  3. Ellen K. said,

    August 2, 2014 @ 12:43 pm

    Julian, can you use those last two examples in a sentence? I really can't imagine either of them being used.

  4. TR said,

    August 2, 2014 @ 12:52 pm

    Hmm. I (California English speaker) am a bit surprised that anyone would find this construction surprising. I don't know that I use it in my own speech, but it sounds perfectly grammatical to me.

    [(myl) So both

    (a) The blown tire caused the car to spin out of control.
    (b) The blown tire caused for the car to spin out of control.

    are OK for you?

    Fascinating if true.]

  5. Neal Goldfarb said,

    August 2, 2014 @ 1:53 pm

    @myl:

    maybe there are some people who think that the pattern of "arranged for X to Y" to apply to "caused for X to Y".

    Slip of the fingers? Editing error? Another new variation in complementation patterns? Or a sly joke?

  6. Ethan said,

    August 2, 2014 @ 2:21 pm

    @John Lawler: There must be considerable idiolectic variation in which verbs are in which category. For me the only verbs I would normally accept from your list "optionally allow V for X to VP" are call, vote, arrange, and (sounds to my ears like instructions to a toddler) "I need for you to VP".

  7. tsts said,

    August 2, 2014 @ 2:21 pm

    I mostly agree with TR that this construction is not that surprising, and it also does not strike me as wrong. Tough in most cases it seems clumsy, and I would not use it.

    Concerning myl's example in reply to TR, I would not use "for", but for the initial example "caused for two lanes" I think the "for" sounds (sort of) OK. I wonder whether this has something to do with the "to be blocked" construction. Or in myl's example, imagine "caused for the car to be hit by a train". You don't need the "for", but it does not offend me in that case. In fact, two of the three examples in the post have this "to be" construction.

  8. Julian Hook said,

    August 2, 2014 @ 2:32 pm

    Ellen: Good question. How about: "You'd think that this border crisis should be a cause for Congress to act." (Or maybe "cause enough"?) I don't really like it and I wouldn't write it, and it may be a different meaning of "cause" (cause in the sense of justification rather than something that directly brings about an effect). But I can imagine someone saying it.

  9. Christel Davies said,

    August 2, 2014 @ 3:14 pm

    Like TR, I'm also a native California English (with some Northern New Mexico English) speaker, but the caused for x to y form strikes me as very odd. Adding "for" seems clumsy and unnecessary, especially for a news article where brevity is a virtue. Although, caused for x to y is perfectly valid, caused x to y is better stylistically.

    "The accident caused two lanes and one inbound express lane to be blocked." Sounds better to me than "the accident caused for two lanes and one inbound express lane to be blocked."

  10. Christel Davies said,

    August 2, 2014 @ 3:29 pm

    Oh, and it just occurred to me I can think another case where both v for x to vp and v x to vp make sense:
    "I googled Asian food delivery Santa Fe to see if I could get Chinese food without having to drive anywhere."
    And
    "I googled for Asian food delivery Santa Fe to see if I could get Chinese food without having to drive anywhere."

  11. Zeppelin said,

    August 2, 2014 @ 7:59 pm

    I've definitely seen "cause for x to" occasionally, and it didn't stand out to me while initially reading the sentence.

    I might have guessed that if there is a semantic difference, "cause x to" implies direct causation, while "cause for x to" implies indirect causation (so to take the highway example, "cause the highway to be blocked, by remaining on it as a wreck" vs. "cause for the highway to be closed off by police").
    But I don't know where I get that intuition from, and while the second and third examples kindasorta support it, the original one doesn't, so ehhh.

  12. TR said,

    August 2, 2014 @ 8:28 pm

    myl: Your sentences are both grammatical for me in the sense that neither would give me pause if I heard it in conversation; in my own speech, I think I'd use only (a) (though self-report isn't necessarily reliable, of course).

  13. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 2, 2014 @ 8:51 pm

    This "caused for" usage sounds totally bizarre to me – not simply odd or clumsy or unidiomatic but simply ungrammatical from a native-speaker-intuition standpoint. But here's an apparent use in a similar traffic-news headline http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/video/9716797-icy-roads-caused-for-horrible-road-conditions-in-south-jersey/ from the website of a tv station in the media market where I grew up (although this channel was the NBC affiliate back then) and where myl now lives. (I had trouble getting the video clip to load/play, so I don't know if the guy reporting in from South Jersey uses the phrase himself in the clip, or it's solely a headline added for the website version.)

  14. JS said,

    August 2, 2014 @ 11:26 pm

    Cross-pollination from "called for"? Would account for some of the syntactic particularity pointed to above.

  15. Akito said,

    August 3, 2014 @ 2:36 am

    I googled (for) Asian food delivery Santa Fe to see if I could get Chinese food without having to drive anywhere.

    Here, "Asian food delivery Santa Fe" is not the semantic subject of "to see". It's an altogether different construction.

  16. Duncan said,

    August 3, 2014 @ 5:28 am

    Here, "caused for" is *extremely* odd usage, so much so that despite years in Kenya, travel in Europe, and exposure to Navajo and Spanish here in the US as well as living in various areas in the US midwest, northwest and now southwest, to the point that I normally have less trouble parsing "foreign" English constructs and usage than most people I know, I could sort of guess at but wasn't entirely comfortable with my interpretation of meaning in any of the examples here.

    When commenters here pointed out that simply leaving out the "for" works, I could suddenly parse the examples *MUCH* better. Still, it's simply so far "out there", causing so much disruption to my train of thought, that I can't imagine every being comfortable with the usage no matter how exposed I was to it, despite my intellectually knowing that I surely would get used to it over time.

    I'm again glad again for LL. At least I now have some idea what to do (drop the "for") to allow the construction to make sense should I come across it in real live, so it won't be a total conversation stopper while I try to make sense of things when someone does use it. Actually it probably still will be, but the stoppage will be shorter now as at least I have /some/ idea how to route around what's still a severe logic pileup for me. The problem now would be simply limited to recognizing that the pattern I'm faced with is this one, and that I actually know what to do with it, rather than trying to figure out what the pattern is in the first place, literally having /no/ /idea/ what's going on, which is where I would have been at if faced with this usage, before.

  17. Richard Bell said,

    August 3, 2014 @ 9:05 am

    Julian:
    I can imagine a politician talking about "a cause for Congress to act" or "a cause for the president to be impeached". "You'd think that this border crisis should be a cause for Congress to act."
    In all your examples "cause" is a noun, not a verb.

  18. Zizoz said,

    August 3, 2014 @ 10:25 am

    I didn't see anything wrong with the first example, but I have the same intuition as Zeppelin regarding the meaning, so I initially understood it to be saying the lanes were blocked off by police.

    The third example caused (for) me to do a double-take, though. Not sure why exactly.

  19. Mark F. said,

    August 3, 2014 @ 10:49 am

    I think that you could probably build a good empirical case that it is not grammatical in the idiolects of most writers of books (or at least their copyeditors).The string "caused for" is very rare in Google ngrams, and every actual use I checked (8 or so) was not of the relevant for. All I found were things like "…problems caused, for immigrants, by the…".

  20. Mark F. said,

    August 3, 2014 @ 10:55 am

    If it's grammatical variation, I still think it's likely a mistake, at least in the contexts where it showed up. That is, it might actually be grammatical for these writers, but they probably want their grammars to conform in that area to the grammars of most of their readers, and I don't think they do conform.

  21. tsts said,

    August 3, 2014 @ 11:18 am

    @Zeppelin: this is also my intuition, that "caused for" is a more indirect effect. That is why I believe it is more common and more acceptable as part of a "caused for … to be" construct. If there was somebody with experience working on linguistic corpora, they might be able to check that out.

  22. bratschegirl said,

    August 3, 2014 @ 11:22 am

    It sounds reminiscent of the "might should"/"might could" formulation one finds in some regions of the US (somewhere in the South? I don't actually know).

  23. Piotr Gąsiorowski said,

    August 3, 2014 @ 11:24 am

    I have posted a few additional examples (all of them from published books, and all from the 21st century) at LanguageHat:

    http://languagehat.com/caused-for/#comment-953811

    It does look like an incipient change.

  24. Vasha said,

    August 3, 2014 @ 4:12 pm

    Having recollected hearing "caused [me/him/etc.] for to…" in a song, I checked Google, and sure enough, there are dozens of folk song lyrics like (to pick one at random) "Some rakish thoughts came in my head which caused me for to roam" ("Brackagh Hill"). It's ONLY in songs, though, so maybe the construction with "for" was chosen for the sake of scansion. Where did it cone from in the first place, though? A songwriter, faced with the need for an extra syllable, doesn't just make up a brand-new and incompehensible grammatical construction. They must have relied on existing variation. I suspect that it is simply that folk song transcriptions are the most common way for nonstandard dialects to be written down, and if I went deeper into dialect studies, I'd find prose examples. The majority of the songs in question were recorded in Ireland, but there's quite a few from England too.

  25. Piotr Gąsiorowski said,

    August 3, 2014 @ 5:47 pm

    Vasha:

    The new construction is "caused for me to roam" rather than "caused me for to roam". The use of "for to" instead of "to" (or "in order to") is very old, traditional, widely attested in nonstandard Englishes and often found in ballad-style poetry — examples that spring to mind immediately include Keats, Kipling and Bob Dylan.

  26. Stephen C. Carlson said,

    August 3, 2014 @ 6:03 pm

    Piotr: On the "for to" construction, could that be the explanation for the famously difficult line from "A Horse with No Name"?

    "'Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain"?

  27. dainichi said,

    August 3, 2014 @ 9:36 pm

    @Richard Bell:
    'In all your examples "cause" is a noun, not a verb.'

    Ellen K. asked about examples with nouns, which is what Julian provided.

    I'm not a native speaker, but I'm wondering if these "for"s are more likely to occur between two stressed syllables, like "caused" and "two", and "caused" and "teams" in the examples. If you don't like (b) in myl's reponse to TR's comment, how do you like

    Blown tires caused for two cars to spin out of control.

    ?

  28. Chas Belov said,

    August 3, 2014 @ 9:48 pm

    @Ethan re: "V for X to VP" are call, vote, arrange, and (sounds to my ears like instructions to a toddler) "I need for you to VP".

    I'm fine with:
    need (for) X to VP
    call (for) X to VP

    I'd *require* "for" with:
    vote for X to VP
    arrange for X to VP

  29. JS said,

    August 3, 2014 @ 10:01 pm

    googled–
    1) "Samuel had an accident that called for his leg to be amputated"
    2) "Increased work demands have recently called for me to travel a lot more"
    3) "an annual trend has called for the Cleveland Browns to bring in a veteran presence"
    Still think "caused for" is most likely transfer from "called for" based on semantic overlap (1 & 2 above ~= "cause") and phonological similarity — too early to say if it is a bunch of one offs or might become a thing…

  30. Piotr Gąsiorowski said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 3:55 am

    Stephen:

    Yes. It's usually (though by no means exclusively) used with the infinitive of purpose. The examples I had in mind were the following: –

    Keats: He ran away to Scotland / The people for to see.

    Kipling: For to admire an' for to see, / For to be'old this world so wide — / It never done no good to me, / But I can't drop it if I tried!

    Dylan: While riding on a train goin' west. / I fell asleep for to take my rest.

    And of course "Oh Susanna!" (Stephen Foster, 1848):

    I'm goin' to Lou'siana my true love for to see.

  31. marie-lucie said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 5:00 am

    Still think "caused for" is most likely transfer from "called for" based on semantic overlap (1 & 2 above ~= "cause") and phonological similarity —

    I am not familiar with "to cause X to V" but I agree with JS about its probable origin..

  32. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 6:08 am

    Or "There were three men came out of the West /Their fortunes for to try." It is not clear to me whether by the latter part of of the 20th century there was still a vernacular form or forms of English where this construction was natural in unself-conscious speech, or whether is was (or had become) a purely "poetic" device (like "o'er" for "over," which AFAIK is not how anyone actually talks) that songwriters used because they'd heard it in prior songs rather than in vernacular speech. But syntatically it seems like a very different construction that this novel one. Compare "The alarm caused me to get out of bed / My coffee for to drink" (traditional in form) with "The alarm caused for me to get out of bed [and/in order to] drink my coffee" (WTF in form).

  33. Piotr Gąsiorowski said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 9:17 am

    As far as I know, for to and for till (+ infinitive) are still well and kicking "in the wild" at least in modern varieties of Scots and dialects influenced by them (such as Belfast English). I suppose you could still hear them from elderly speakers of Irish English as well (I recall a few examples from James Joyce's prose).

    For to infinitives used to be entirely acceptable in mainstream literary English — they are common in Middle and Early Modern English texts, can be found in King James's Bible (e.g. Luke 7:26-27 [2x]: But what went ye out for to see?), and even occasionally in Shakespeare. This is Claudius speaking (Hamlet III:1):

    O'er which his melancholy sits on brood,
    And I do doubt the hatch and the disclose
    Will be some danger — which for to prevent,
    I have in quick determination
    Thus set it down: he shall with speed to England
    For the demand of our neglected tribute.

  34. J. W. Brewer said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 9:36 am

    Maybe I should make it a more limited question of whether the "for to INFINITIVE" construction remains in use "in the wild" in any variety of AmEng the users in AmEng written news stories of this innovative "cause for" construction are likely to have had significant personal exposure to, which would probably not include Scots or Ulster Scots. I suppose it wouldn't surprise me if it had survived in e.g. some Appalachian varieties (which already include some features that have become archaic/obsolete in standard/prestige AmEng, plus is spoken by a community with a high %age of Scotch-Irish ancestry), but I don't know one way or another and it seems at least moderately unlikely that users of the innovative construction would be trying to echo a usage that would, if not completely obsolete, be very rustic/rural/low-prestige in an AmEng context.

  35. Piotr Gąsiorowski said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 9:52 am

    I don't think the new construction has anything to do with the for to infinitive. It must be a generalisation of for sb to do sth in a context where it was not originally permissible.

  36. Rodger C said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 11:14 am

    @Stephen C. Carlson: What on earth is difficult about that line? Of course I speak as someone from from West Virginia, so maybe I shouldn't have ought to objected.

    On the original topic, I note that "caused for" seems to occur almost (?) entirely in the past tense. Could it be simply (or not so simply) serving the function of emphasizing the verb ending, which otherwise would be barely pronounced?

  37. Gene Callahan said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 11:15 am

    @Richard Bell: "In all your examples "cause" is a noun, not a verb."

    Given Julian put the word "a" before cause, we can be pretty sure he knew that.

  38. Elonkareon said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 11:51 am

    JS: That (called for > caused for) was my first intuition, and at least on first read it seemed to drop in well in the first two examples above. Looking more closely it doesn't fit the context, but it still might be influencing the construction.

  39. Stephen C. Carlson said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 12:57 pm

    @Piotr: Thanks for the examples, esp. "Oh Susannah!"

    @Rodger: I guess I just expected "for" to be doing something different than what it's actually doing. It's not a construction I'm used to, though I must have heard it before (e.g. the Stephen Foster song).

  40. AG said,

    August 5, 2014 @ 7:49 am

    I agree with the "called for" ideas discussed above.

    I think there are definitely some US accents (New York area, maybe) where "calls for" and "cause for" both might sound something like "caws fuh", which could, er, cawsfuhtha confusion

  41. AG said,

    August 5, 2014 @ 7:59 am

    …I just accidentally stumbled over another possibility there, I think: further.

    The common phrase "caused further X" might be heard by some as "caused for the X". I realize the original example doesn't have "the", but by this point the first two syllable of the expression might have come to life on their own…?

  42. Kai Christensen said,

    August 5, 2014 @ 8:13 am

    I usually post as dainichi, but the filter eats 90% of my comments, so let's see if that's the reason.

    In my native Danish, for is mandatory in the "infinitive of purpose", "for at". My first encounter with "for to" must have been

    Swing low sweet chariot coming for to carry me home

    And I remember being confused, since I thought that was an error that Danes new to English would make. Does anybody know how and if the Danish "for at" and the English "for to" are related?

  43. Monoglot said,

    August 6, 2014 @ 8:36 am

    If "for at" was in Old Norse, that would probably explain where the Scots/Irish English "for to" came from (unless it's general Germanic and the "to" is just a remnant of the dative case).

  44. Akito said,

    August 6, 2014 @ 10:47 am

    I don't think the new construction has anything to do with the for to infinitive. It must be a generalisation of for sb to do sth in a context where it was not originally permissible.

    I agree. It's like saying "I would like for you to (do something)" instead of "I would like you to (do something)".

  45. John I. said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 8:54 pm

    I've lived half my life in western Canada (prairies) and half in central Canada (Ontario), and I have never heard "cause for". It immediately struck me as ungrammatical.

  46. m.m. said,

    September 20, 2014 @ 8:50 pm

    im with TR, among being a california english speaker, they all seem fine. the construction doesnt catch attention. though whether i use it myself i cant say

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