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what is that curtain for across the window? Options
flylikeeagle
Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2018 8:43:33 AM

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Joined: 11/29/2018
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Location: Cairo, Al Qahirah, Egypt
Hello,

I'm facing a difficulty with understanding what is precisely meant by the following sentences: "what is that curtain for across the window?"

Here's the context from "The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

"But I say, Billy, what is that curtain for across the window?'

'Mr Holmes had it put up there three days ago. We've got something funny behind it.'

Billy advanced and drew away the drapery which screened the alcove of the bow window."

Does he mean "What is the purpose for that curtain that covers the window?" or "What is that curtain that covers the window?"?

Please, help!


https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Adventure_of_the_Mazarin_Stone
Sarrriesfan
Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2018 9:20:06 AM

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Location: Luton, England, United Kingdom
The author means the first, "what is the purpose of that curtain that covers the window".

I lack the imagination for a witty signature.
FounDit
Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2018 10:58:34 AM

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Agreed. We often just use "What's that for?" to ask the purpose or reason for someone doing something, or the purpose of some object.


We should look to the past to learn from it, not destroy our future because of it — FounDit
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2018 12:49:33 PM

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Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
Also - as both FounDit and Sarriesfan have shown by example, it is normal to use
the purpose of something
the reason for something
what something is for

What is the purpose of the handle on that box?
What is the reason for the handle on that box?
What's the handle on that box for?


"The purpose for" is OK - but it's not the phrase most people would automatically use.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Romany
Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2018 6:07:47 PM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 6/14/2009
Posts: 15,380
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Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom

It's just the kind of ellipses that is a common feature of casual, spoken English.

If we were to write it - as above - it wouldn't make much sense. But when it's spoken we are conflating two sentences: - "What is that curtain for?" and "(I mean) the curtain across the window.

squish those two together and we say "What is that curtain for, (the one which is)across the window."
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