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Is there a difference in meaning between 'for what' and 'what for'? I think both are the same. What do you think? Thank you as usual and have a good day.
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In what context do you want to use them?
As stand-alone utterances? As part of a sentence?
AnonymousIs there a difference in meaning between 'for what' and 'what for'? I think both are the same.
They are not exactly the same in usage. "What for?" is used as a separable expression meaning "Why?"

What did you do that for?

You can't do that with "for what".

Going the other way, you can say:

I worked for days on that project, and all for what? Nothing. The boss decided not to use anything of it.

..., and all what for? would be unidiomatic.

CJ
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Thank you. Then, is there a difference in meaning between them?

For what do you need it?

What do you need it for?

What for do you need it?
For what do you need it? Awkward. People do not usually say this.

What do you need it for? Good. People say this all the time.

What for do you need it? Incorrect.
So do you think 'for what' and 'what for' have different meanings? It seems like people have different opinions about it. What do you think? Thank you in advance.
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Grammar GeekIn what context do you want to use them? As stand-alone utterances? As part of a sentence?
I mean 'as stand-alone utterances'. What do you think?
AnonymousSo do you think 'for what' and 'what for' have different meanings? It seems like people have different opinions about it. What do you think? Thank you in advance.
There are just different ways in which these two words can be used in different idiomatic expressions.

eg:
I'll give you the what-for! - A mild threat to punish someone who did something wrong.
CJ's example - I worked so long and so hard... and for what? A few measly dollars and a gold-colored watch! - Why?
What is it used for? What is its purpose?

According to my understanding (and my dictionaries), 'what for' means 'for what purpose? why?" In other words, 'to achieve what?'

Eg 'Did you really do that? What for?' (to what end? What did you want to achieve by it?). The answer could be anything, but would usually start with 'Because' or 'to': 'Because I want to teach him a lesson', or 'To teach him a lesson.'

Whereas 'for what' is usually a direct response to a sentence that implies 'for something', and can be followed by a sentence starting with 'For'. Eg 'I want to thank you.' - 'For what?' - 'For helping me out'. Or "They were all severely reprimanded" - "For what?" - 'For not following the correct procedures.' Or "We worked our fingers to the bone, and for what?" - (implied answer) "For a measly few extra dollars?" / "For a tap on the shoulder?"

So it seems there is overlap in meanings, but it's the use that differs. 'What for ' seems to question the aim/objective in the future, while 'for what' questions the reason/motivation (in the past) that lead to an action.

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