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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



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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)

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