They're saving for a down payment on a house

They’re saving for a down payment on a house.
I don’t really understand the preposition in this sentence.
Can I say “they’re saving a down payment for a house”?

No, you can’t. You save money (no preposition), but you save for something that you buy with that money.

So you save for a new TV, a new car etc.

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+1

Is a down payment money, isn’t it?
Can I say “I’m saving money for a house”?

Yes, you could say that. Or ‘I’m saving for a house’ or ‘I’m saving to buy a house’ or several other similar sentences. You are right that a down payment is just an amount of money and not a product in and of itself, but you still can’t say ‘I’m saving a down payment’.

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I’m saving for a house.
I’m saving money for a house.
I’m saving up for a house.
I’m saving up money for a house.
I’m saving to buy a house.
I’m saving up for a down payment on a house.
I’m saving up money for a down payment on a house.

Etc.

down payment on a house = 房子的首付
down payment on a car = 车子的首付

I am saying for 房子的首付.

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You save something that you have and you decide not to spend for the time being
You save for something that you don’t have and can’t afford but would like to acquire at a later date

So, if you have something, you can save it
If you don’t have something, you can save for it

In the example, those people didn’t have the down payment money for the house they intended to buy
if you said:
“They saved the down payment on the house”, the situation would be completely different: that sentence would imply that they already had that money and saved it to buy something else. For example, they might be the house sellers, they got the down payment from the buyers but didn’t want to spend it right away

Exactly right.

+1

“a down payment”

Utterly new for me. Now with this, my vocabulary goes up - thank you!

Well done Etudiant1! Would you say “un acompte” in French?

There is a difference between “down payment” and “deposit” in English.

While “verser un acompte” in French means “pay a deposit” a different word in French for down payment might be used.

As down payment is new for you, you might not understand the difference between down payment and deposit in English. To make it easier for you, I’ve supplied the definitions below. Don’t worry too much, I am well aware that this thread is not about the difference between down payment and deposit.

Down payment: generally made at the time of purchase and is part of a loan agreement, the balance of which is usually paid back over months or years. Once you make the down payment and sign the contract, you must pay back the entire loan. If you don’t make the subsequent payments, you go into default on the loan, with all the negative consequences that follow.

Deposit: usually a payment that indicates your intention to buy but does not actually conclude the purchase. If you change your mind and decide not to buy, you may or may not lose your entire deposit depending upon the agreement, but are (typically) not required to make further payments.

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Brilliant, @Maria2!

Thank you for these details interpretations!

It moves me to see that you (native- speakers) read comments by learners of English and are willing to help.

Thank you!

“down payment” would be “apport (personnel)” when talking about real estate.

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Oh la vache, encore un nouveau mot! Ça c’est du droit, non?

Quel mot ? ^^