"To" vs. "In order to" in the English grammar

To vs. In order to

'To' and 'in order to' are widely used, but you may confuse their interchangeability and their differences.

"To" vs. "In order to" in the English grammar

What Is Their Main Difference?

The main difference between 'to' and 'in order to' is that 'in order to' more formal than 'to.'

Expressing Purpose

'To' and 'in order to' are used to show and express the purpose of actions. Have a look:

We use this device to help elders.

We use this device in order to help elders.

Cause and Effect

We can use 'in order to' and 'to' to show the cause of something or the effects of an action or event. Have a look:

She studied hard to pass.

She studied hard in order to pass.

To make the sentence negative, we can add 'not' to 'in order to' or 'to.' In this case, we generally use 'in order to.' Have a look:

She studied hard not to fail.

She studied hard in order not to fail.

At the Beginning of the Sentence

We can use both 'in order to' and 'to' at the beginning of the sentence as well. For example:

In order to participate, you need an invitation.

To participate, you need an invitation.

Are They Interchangeable?

'To' can always replace 'in order to.' 'In order to' however, cannot always replace 'to.' This is because expressing purpose is not the only function of 'to.' 'To' can be used as a preposition of movement and direction to show movement from one place to another, as an identifier for 'relationships' and 'attachments.' You can replace 'to' with 'in order to' only when we are expressing purpose. Have a look:

Karen is married to John. → Karen is married in order to John.

Here, we cannot use 'in order to' instead of 'to' as 'to' is identifying a relationship.

He moved to another apartment. → He moved in order to another apartment

Here, we cannot use 'in order to' instead of 'to' because 'to' is showing movement from place to another.

He works full-time to earn money for his family. → He works full-time in order to earn money for his family.

Here, 'to' and 'in order to' are interchangeable because they both express purpose of the subject.

Tip!

As mentioned earlier, 'in order to' is more formal than 'to,' and its usage is avoided.

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