"For" as a Coordinating Conjunction: What Does it Mean?

The word for can be a preposition, which is how it's almost always used nowadays. But this webpage is about for as a coordinating conjunction.
For the times, they are a-changin' (Dylan)

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son

For he's a jolly good fellow

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be:
For loan oft loses both itself and friend; (Shakespeare)

Fact 1. It is really hard to find for used as a coordinating conjunction in modern writing. Really, it is almost archaic. None of the above are modern: a couple songs, and writing from before 1620. We will talk about Swift, from the mid-1700's.

Fact 2. Despite it's almost archaic status, for still appears on the nearly-sacrosanct list of the seven coordinating conjunctions: For, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.

The list is really hard to get on. Plus is used as a coordinating conjunction, and I have seen it called that in a dictionary. But it doesn't make the list. Then is used as a coordinating conjunction nowadays. But it doesn't make the list either. It's a really hard list to get on.

Apparently, it's also a really hard list to leave -- for is still on it.


Unless you want to be perfectionistic, for simply means 'because'.

I like being perfectionistic. And the reality is, for doesn't exactly mean because, it's just close.

Differences Between For and Because

For the times, they are a-changin'
Because the times, they are a-changin
Cos the times, they are a-changin'
There is no question that those differ in feel. For feels more ponderous, old, and biblical -- because it's mostly found nowadays in the bible. But if you ignore that . . . those still have a slightly different meaning. IMO, but I'm not positive, because it's not really a big difference.

There is no question that for cannot always be subsitituted for because.

Why did you eat dinner? Because I was hungry. Why did you eat dinner? For I was hungry.
And there are a couple places where because cannot easily be substituted for for.
For he's a jolly good fellow Because he's a jolly good fellow.
The ending, in America, is "which nobody can deny." That doesn't fit because. But the lyrics of that song are translated from French. So it's questionable as an example, even though it's the only example I know of (for that particular problem). In the following, because cannot be substituted for for because of the behold.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Because behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
But that could just be a grammatical thing.
Because John didn't come to the meeting, we didn't have a quorum. For John didn't come to the meeting, we didn't have a quorum.
This is another example of when for cannot be subsituted for because, but it's trivial. Because is a subordinating conjunction, and subordinating conjuctions can stand in front of the initial clause and show it's relation to the next clause. Coordinating conjunctions can't do that. An example using so as a coordinating conjunction. The first sentence doesn't make sense; the second easily makes sense. So our meeting was short, we didn't have a quorum. We didn't have a quorum, so our meeting was short. And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. Ideas of Causation Hulswit said, "In the seventeenth century a movement of thought arose that has come to be known as modern science. This evolution involved a radical change in the development of the concept of cause." Let me try to put that into English. The scientifc revolution started in the early 1600's, and it was accompanied by a change in how people thought of causation. The religious notion, roughly, is that all things happen according to God's will. The scientific notion is to focus on events in the world causing other events. Suppose that's true. Then before that time, when people used the words cause, because, and for, they did not mean our modern scientific notion, because they didn't have that. There's a lot to discuss on that. First, the word for was in use in the olden times, and because was rare. For example, the word because occurs once in Hamlet and once in Othello. It's in my last book 151 times. Meanwhile, for was common as a coordinating conjunction in the Bible and in Shakespeare, but not in modern writing. So, those people who want to understand how ideas change should be drooling over the use of the word for. Um, they aren't; I pretty much have a monopoly. Second, it could cut the other way -- when people today use the words cause, because, and for, perhaps they cannot mean the old notion, then mean the scientific notion. I suspect that's largely true; I suspect that, to the extent it's true, for really does just mean because. But, again, I really think the two are slightly different. And not only do we need to consider the possibility that there the 2016 meaning of for is influenced by the old notion of causality, I think that might be true. And the third issue is what that pre-scientific notion of for was. The Causality of For That's not easy to prove. And the reality is, if we had just the scientific notion of causality, then for couldn't have a more religious notion. Plus, and this is the big stumbling block for me, I cannot describe that (supposed) religious notion of causality. And still . . . Blessed are the meek, because they shall inherit the earth. What is causing what? The fact that they will inherit the earth causes them to be blessed? No, not really. Blessed with what? Well, blessed with inheriting the earth, but now we are going in a circle. Let me try to state this clearly. When you look at the Bible, and try to replace for with because, it comes close. But if you look more closely, it's not exactly clear what is causing what. Or consider this: And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, He is going to die because he's seen Jesus? No, it more says that the Lord should let him die because he's seen Jesus. Or the Lord should let him die in peace because he's seen Jesus. If you look at the first paragraph, what it says is that he will not die until he has seen Jesus. BUT IT DOESN'T SAY WHY! Because God will keep him alive? The Holy Ghost just knew the future and was reporting it? There is no stated causal connection between the two . . . which now fits the next two paragraphs perfectly. And even when we look at Dylan: Come swim like a fish or you'll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changin; Come swim like a fish or you'll sink like a stone, because the times they are a-changin; Because the times are changing, you will sink like a stone if you don't swim like a fish Because the times are changing, you should swim like a fish instead of sinking like a stone. So it's not clear what is being caused. But really? I'm not sure Dylan meant a causal connection. Maybe he was just saying both are true. The Don't-Make-a-Big-Deal Idea There is also a triviality to the use of for in the bible. Consider For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son . . . For is what I call a connector -- it indicates how this verse connects up with the previous verse (or idea). So we need that context: WHOLE QUOTE And that's not really an explanation, and it's not clear what it's a cause of, and we can go all mystical, but . . . They didn't choose between for and because. Because wasn't on their list of connectors. So it wasn't a choice. The most common connector is and. You can see that isn't working well. They didn't have a lot of connectors, and for was the best one. Modern times, we just leave the connector out. I would confidently predict that's what the modern translation of the bible does. God so loved ... The meaning is clear. But the translators could do that. A verse had to start with a connector. That meant either for or another connector, with and being probably the second choice. But and isn't a good choice. So they [and we don't know who they is] choose for, to indicate what we can loosely call a notion of casual connection, or the second verse being a consequence of the first. It corresponds to the religious notion of causality because that's the only one they had. A Small Possibility The word "for" is almost archaic. I would not expect to find it in any modern book. To be more precise, it was in the last book I read -- but that book was quoting from the King James Version of the Bible, which uses "for" regularly. Still reading? We do it wrong, being so majestical, To offer it the show of violence; For it is, as the air, invulnerable, And our vain blows malicious mockery. But break my heart,—for I must hold my tongue! For he himself is subject to his birth: For the apparel oft proclaims the man; Neither a borrower nor a lender be: For loan oft loses both itself and friend; SWFIT I lay down on the grass, which was very short and soft, where I slept sounder than ever I remembered to have done in my life, and, as I reckoned, about nine hours; for when I awaked, it was just day-light I drank it off at a draught, which I might well do, for it did not hold half a pint, It appeared that he understood me well enough, for he shook his head by way of disapprobation Here the emperor ascended, with many principal lords of his court, to have an opportunity of viewing me, as I was told, for I could not see them. Can only point backwards: and but But he was sick, he didn't go to work also plus then for yet so now Can only point "forwards?" None? Ham. I marry, why was he sent into England? Clo. Why, because he was mad; I will remind you, once again, that The Fault in Our Stars is my favorite book. It would be a crime against humanity to rewrite it in SePG, for the somewhat stilted WG works perfect for that book.