Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

Ask-A-Linguist Message Details

Subject: On English Usage (For make no mistake)
Question: This question is about part of Obama's Nobel Prize Acceptance speech in 2009. There are two divided views on the interpretation of: ''For make no mistake'' in the speech: "But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non- violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies." (1) One interpretation is ''for make no mistake'' forms a phrase for the emphasis of the gravity of his statement, ''for'' being a preposition, if asked of its part of speech. (2) The other interpretation is ''for'' is a conjunction which is semantically similar to ''because'' and ''make no mistake'' is an insertion Most translations of Japanese newspapers interpret it as (1) but only one newspaper as (2). My preference goes for (1), but as a non-native speaker, I am not certain. I need native English speakers help. Thank you for your help in advance from an English teacher in Japan.
Reply: For me too, it can only be (2). I'll reword it to show the structure: I can't stand idle (because, certainly, evil exists). The bit in brackets is an embedded clause, beginning with 'for' used as a subordinating conjunction. Although 'make no mistake' has the form of an imperative clause, it is an idiom functioning as a discourse marker. I am surprised that Elizabeth thinks it was (1) -- so surprised that I think she may have hit the wrong key! -- and also surprised that it could be translated in any other way. If 'for' is a preposition, what is the noun phrase that follows it? Anthea
Reply From: Anthea Fraser Gupta      click here to access email
Date: 11-Jan-2014
Other Replies:
  1. Re: On English Usage (For make no mistake)    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (09-Jan-2014)
  2. Re: On English Usage (For make no mistake)    John M. Lawler     (09-Jan-2014)
  3. Re: On English Usage (For make no mistake)    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (10-Jan-2014)
  4. Re: On English Usage (For make no mistake)    Marilyn N Silva     (09-Jan-2014)

Back to Most Recent Questions