[SOLVED] Nitpicking on prepositions

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Super Member
Joined: 27.06.2016
Pending moderation

Dear native and fluent English speakers, I need to pick your brain.
I wonder how do you understand in general the phrase "a song to somebody/something"? And is there any difference to you between it and "a song for somebody/something"?
Thanks!

Super Member
Joined: 26.01.2016

In general everyday speech, I'd say the difference is minor. However, there can be subtle distinctions depending on context. For example: "I want to sing a song to you," seems to mean more that I want to sing any particular song to you. It doesn't matter what song, because what's important is that I just want to sing to you.

"I want to sing a song for you," on the other hand, gives me the sense that I have thought about singing this particular song in advanced. It's a pre-meditated act of singing. Wink smile

To know for sure though, I'd say it depends on context and that in the quick-and-dirty world of everyday speech, the difference will probably be minor.

Super Member
Joined: 13.07.2016

Wonderful how English can have different meanings, more or less redundant.

Super Member
Joined: 27.06.2016

Thanks! In a sentence it can be rather easy to get at least some context. But what if it is the sentence as in a title of a song and an object is country's name?

I didn't want to color one's judgment by a more detailed question. What I want to achieve is "a song dedicated to something/somebody", but without "dedicated" within. Wink smile

Will it change anything?

Editor /Languages Advocate
Joined: 18.10.2015

Yes, Ivan, it's surely "A Song For You" Regular smile

Super Member
Joined: 26.01.2016

In this case, I would say, "A Song Written for X." To me, that means that it was specifically written for and dedicated to a particular country. Regular smile

Super Member
Joined: 26.01.2016

Also, you can leave out the "Written" like @sandring suggested: "A Song For Country X" is just fine. Regular smile

Editor /Languages Advocate
Joined: 18.10.2015

I believe, the difference is like this
I'll sing a song to you = I'll sing you a song, tell you a joke, show you a picture (emphasizing an action)
I'll sing a song for you = I'll sing a song (meant only) for you Regular smile

Super Member
Joined: 26.01.2016

Yes, that sounds about right to me. Regular smile

Super Member
Joined: 27.06.2016

Thanks again, Nadia and Taylor! My mind had it all reversed somehow. Wink smile
But distinguishing between "to" and "for" in other situations regularly gives me a headache too.

Super Member
Joined: 26.01.2016

Anytime. Regular smile

Editor Francophony
Joined: 14.10.2014

It's subtle but to my mind a song "for" someone is written for that person, a tribute to them, in memory of them, inspired by them. But they may not necessarily hear it.

A song "to" someone is a message directed to them, in the hope that they will hear it and respond, or be affected by it.

that's just my interpretation of course

I think for your purpose I would use 'For'

Super Member
Joined: 27.06.2016

And I, don't know why, thought a tribute would be "to" (because of "tribute to", "dedicated to") and simple addressee would be "for". Oh well, the natives know better. Wink smile

Senior Member
Joined: 13.04.2017

Ivan, you may better understand the subtlety if you consider the existence of these two English expressions:
1. to listen to
2. to listen for

Super Member
Joined: 07.11.2016

Oh, you mean like this one?: http://lyricstranslate.com/en/mary-black-song-ireland-lyrics.html (It's a Phil Colclough song originally though) Regular smile

Editor Francophony
Joined: 14.10.2014

Or, to quote Elton John:

"My gift is my song
And this one's for you"

Regular smile

Super Member
Joined: 27.06.2016

Yeah, something like that or this: http://lyricstranslate.com/en/песен-за-българия-pesen-za-bylgarija-song-.... I was trying to find a better translation of the title. The song by itself isn't giving any clue what was the intended by the title, but in a concert there was a clear message of dedication in the announcement of the song.

Super Member
Joined: 27.06.2016

Oh, I've understood it already, it's just that the nuances were swapped in my head, but now they are unswapped. Nevertheless thanks for the most obvious example!

Moderator in an alternate dimension
Joined: 05.04.2012

And this is just one of the many reasons why I hate English prepositions Tongue smile

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