Clap him or clap for him: All the explanation you need

Do you say ‘clap for him’ or ‘clap him’? Which of them is correct?

We will look at how and where different speakers (all of which speak English as a primary language) use the above expressions with a new insight for everyone, no matter which style they use.

Every discourse I came across on this subject tends to be from a particular point of view (of a particular set of speakers), but we will pull them all together here. All facts are verifiable and credible.

‘Clap’ is both a noun and a verb. As a verb, it means to hit your hands together to make a short loud sound for attention, or admiration (applaud); to hit someone lightly to express pleasure; or to put someone or something somewhere quickly (e.g. They clapped him into the bunker).

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As a noun, it means the act of performing the above actions, or the sound of an explosion, especially thunder (e.g. He was frightened by a clap of thunder).

The verb form of ‘clap’ in the context of ‘applaud’, used with or without ‘for’ + human names or personal pronouns (clap for + Nneka/him/her/them or clap + Nneka /him/her/them) is what has generated some divergence of opinions.

As a non-native speaker of English, I discovered that the pattern is not the same for every native speaker because American English has a form of it and British has another, while Australians and Canadians follow one of these patterns.

In British English, ‘clap’ is generally used without ‘for’ as a verb, but could be used with ‘for’ as a noun. This was directly confirmed to me by the British Council and evident in the British National Corpus. Only one entry is found in the corpus where ‘clap’ (verb) was used with ‘for’ before a name (…let’s all clap for Neil…)


  1. We should clap Nefertiti for the accurate answer (verb).
  2. Let’s clap her for that wonderful performance (verb).
  3. Give a clap for Paul as he stands to discuss the subject (noun).

In American English, as confirmed by native speakers and the Corpus of Contemporary American English, ‘clap for’ is both natural and acceptable.  Thus, the British form is not evident in the corpus.


  1. You can clap for me if you want to.
  2. Christine decided to clap for the musician and we all joined to make him happy.

Similarly, the Corpus of Canadian English, The Australian Writer’s Marketplace Online and speakers from both countries (though Australia is also a continent) confirmed the use of ‘clap for’ naturally.

However, examples of ‘clap for’ (as used in American, Canadian and Australian English) are not exclusively evident in the Cambridge Dictionary, Oxford Dictionary, Macmillan Dictionary and Collins Dictionary. The related examples given are: clap him, clapped the marcher, clapped his performance, clapped for joy, etc.

Moreover, Cambridge Dictionary’s reply to my question is:

“Yes, it does sound a little odd (the ‘for’ element). If you were asking an audience to applaud a guest, you’d be more likely to say something like ‘Please give x a big hand’ or ‘Please put your hands together for x’. You wouldn’t tend to use the word ‘clap’. If you were reporting what had happened, you would probably say something like ‘They clapped/applauded when x entered.’ So although ‘clap for’ isn’t absolutely wrong, it’s not quite natural sounding either.”

Consequently, ‘give a big hand’, ‘a round of applause for’, ‘put your hands together for’, etc. have been suggested to escape this diversity, but we can’t run away from any aspect of language— it will always find us.

In summary, these are the facts: renowned dictionaries support the British form as the standard (clap him/her; a clap for him/her) and find it unnatural to say ‘clap for him/her’; Americans, Canadians and Australians find it quite natural to say ‘clap for him/her’ and find the British form weird.

Now that you know…

21 thoughts on “Clap him or clap for him: All the explanation you need

  1. Clementina says:

    Thanks for the research. I think clap for him,her or so is more widely use in Nigeria even though we were colonised by the British. For me “clap her sounds wired” this examples of” clap for” should be included in the dictionaries.

  2. Henry G. Baffoe says:

    Good answer to this question but note that Webster dictionary (which you listed as one of those that do not contain the ‘clap for’ example) actually does contain it.
    Being a widely recognized dictionary of American English, it has various examples in its different editions and on-line dictionary such as:
    The audience clapped for the bride and the bridegroom

  3. Thank you for your observation. Kudos to you.

  4. Prudence Amaka says:

    Thank you 🙏

  5. Thank you for this. I am no longer confused.

  6. Thank you for this.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Our English teachers are found of clap for her, I grew up listening to a lot of people using the phrase”clap for her”

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this eye opener.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the correction.

  10. Thanks for this. I am a Nigerian, and Nigeria is colonized by the British. I think clap him or her is okay. Appart from that, clap is a transitive verb and transitive verb is no prepositional verb. So preposition(for) useless. But you can say give her a clap

  11. Anonymous says:

    As an Elocutionist, I go for clap him/her. Though it may sound odd to some, I feel it’s better for us to go for the right thing.

  12. Seyi Samuel says:

    Really appreciate your work, thanks

  13. The use of “clap for her” is common in Nigeria. Could “lend her a big hand” be an alternative?

  14. Yes, Nigerians use every version of English (smile). Meanwhile, ‘give a big hand’ is a correct alternative.

  15. I’m confused! Which one is correct for Ugandans?

  16. Reports show Uganda uses neither British nor American English. Is this true? Your answer will help me answer your question.

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