A desired outcome presented as contingent on some event, situation, entity, or resource. The Purpose may be specific (e.g., an outcome that somebody tries to achieve by performing an action) or generic (e.g., an entity that was designed for or incidentally provides some affordance).

Central usages of Purpose explain the motivation behind (hence subtype of Explanation) an action; the action serves as a means for achieving or facilitating the Purpose. Yet it is possible to complete the action without realizing the purpose.

Prototypical markers include for and infinitive marker to:

  • He rose to make a grand speech. 001

  • He rose for a grand speech. 002

  • surgery to treat a leg injury 003

Something directly manipulated/affected can stand in metonymically for the desired event:

  • I went to the store for eggs. [understood: ‘to acquire/buy eggs’] 004

  • surgery for a leg injury [understood: ‘to treat a leg injury’] 005

Less central usages present a potentially desirable outcome that could be brought about thanks to the availability of an entity, such as a tool, facility, or expendable resource:1

  • There is some wood to start a fire (with). 054

  • Do you have a couch to sleep on/for sleeping on? 055

  • This place is great for ping-pong. 010

However, this category excludes infinitival complements of modal and aspectual predicates that lack a direct object:

The following tests help to clarify the boundaries of Purpose:

1. If a relation can be phrased as in order to VP or in order for NP to VP, it is a Purpose.#

  • I arrived (in order) to see the movie. 030

  • I need $10 (in order) to see the movie. 031

  • It takes $10 (in order) to see the movie. 032

  • Bring the product to the store (in order) for`i us to service it. 033

  • Bring the product to the store (in order) for`i the part to be replaced. 034

2. If a relation can be phrased as for the purpose of NP, or for the purpose of NP (provided that the meaning is not better captured by another label, e.g. Beneficiary), or that intends to VP, it is a Purpose.#

  • I arrived for (the purpose of) the movie. 035

  • I need $10 for (the purpose of seeing) the movie. 036

  • I went to the store for (the purpose of buying) eggs. 037

  • a couch for (the purpose of) sleeping on 038

  • a couch to sleep on ⇒ a couch for the purpose of sleeping on 039

  • I found a party (that I intend) to attend 040

Be careful, however, with inserting an inferred verb, as sometimes it is better captured by another label:

  • I babysat for (the purpose of helping) my aunt and uncle (= as a favor) (Beneficiary) 041

  • I made a cake for (the purpose of celebrating) your birthday (= on the occasion of your birthday) (Circumstance) 042

3. If a relation can be phrased as NP is good/bad for V-ing, it is a Purpose.3#

  • This is a good gym to lift weights at.
    ⇒ This is a good gym for (lifting) weights.
    ⇒ This gym is good for (lifting) weights.

  • This cleaner is good for (cleaning) hardwood floors. 044

4. An infinitival modifier of an indefinite pronoun (anything, someone) or vague noun (thing, stuff) is Purpose if the pronoun or vague noun has an entity referent that is involved in the infinitival event.#

  • I can’t think of anybody/a single person to ask. 045

  • I found something to eat. 046

  • I found something/stuff to do. (something/stuff does not refer to an entity) (`i) 047

5. An infinitive clause not meeting the above criteria may express the result of an event, in which case the appropriate label is Goal: see Goal#011.#

6. Many uses of infinitives are not purposes, including complements of modal/aspectual predicates that lack a direct object (#056#058), and syntactic constructions like clausal subjects and certain clefts:#

  • To see the movie is a joy. (`i) 048

  • It is fun to see the movie. (`i) 049

Commercial services#

A special qualification to the above tests applies to commercial scenes (buying, paying, hiring, costing, etc.): for explicitly commercial scenes,2 if the Purpose tests pass, the appropriate label is ThemePurpose. This expresses that the Purpose is not merely a desired outcome, but is actually promised and paid for in a transaction:

See additional examples under Theme.

Sufficiency and excess#

Expressions of sufficiency/excess with an infinitival that passes the above tests for Purpose are labeled ComparisonRefPurpose.

Sufficiency/excess usages failing the tests are ComparisonRefGoal, as this is similar to how an infinitival can express a result—cf. Goal#011:

  • a forest canopy too dense to admit sunlight (ComparisonRefGoal) 053

    • *a forest canopy too dense in order to admit sunlight 059

    • *a forest canopy too dense for the purpose of admitting sunlight [would imply that somebody was trying to admit sunlight] 060

There is additional discussion under ComparisonRef.

Versus Circumstance for ritualized occasions#

Purpose applies to for when it marks a ritualized activity such as a meal or holiday/commemoration for which the main event describes a preparation stage:

  • Purpose:

    • I walked to this restaurant for dinner. [walking is not a part of dinner] 020

    • I bought food for dinner. 021

    • We saved money for our annual vacation. 022

However, if the activity marked by for is interpreted as containing the main event, then we use Circumstance:

  • Circumstance:

    • We ate there for dinner. 023

    • I received a new bicycle for Christmas. 024

    • I always drink eggnog for Christmas. [at and in celebration of Christmastime] 025

    • We were wearing costumes for Halloween. 026

If in doubt, Circumstance is broader: e.g., We went there for dinner if went is ambiguous between journeying and attending.

  1. In FrameNet as of v1.7, these sorts of purposes are labeled as Inherent_purpose. See, e.g., the example “MONEY [to support yourself and your family]” in the Money frame

  2. A more general predicate such as give, need, or request is not considered to evoke a commercial scene, even if it involves money exchanged for a service. 

  3. The positive or negative evaluation is being delimited to a particular purpose: #043 is not claiming the gym is good in general, just with respect to lifting weights. 

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Supercategory: Explanation