"To" vs. "For" in the English grammar

To vs. For

'To' and 'for' are prepositions that may confuse learners. In this lesson, we will learn their uses and differences.

"To" vs. "For" in the English grammar

What Is Their Main Difference?

The main difference between 'to' and 'for' is that 'to' is used to show movement and direction while we use 'for' to indicate a purpose or a goal.

Expressing Movement

'To' is a preposition of motion and direction that is used to show movement from one place to another. Have a look:

I went to the office on Saturday.

Here, the subject has moved from one place to another.

He moved to another city.

Expressing Purpose

We can use 'for' to show the purpose or function of something. For example:

The tools needed for making this device are expensive.

Here, we use 'for' to that the tools are for the purpose of making a device.

He got a grant for studying in University.

Expressing Relationships

We can use 'to' in order to identify relationships and attachments. Have a look:

Nina is engaged to Ian.

Here, we are showing a relation between two people.

The board is connected to the wall.

Here, we are showing attachment between two objects.

Expressing Benefits

'For' is used to show that something has been done to the benefit of something or someone. For example:

He bought a present for me.

The cat caught a mouse for her kittens.

Infinitive Marker

We use 'to' as an infinitive marker to change verbs into infinitive form. Take a look at the following example:

She is planning to debut tonight.

My cat loves to hunt.


We can use 'for' as a conjunction to mean 'because' and explain the reasons or purpose of something. In this case, we do not use it very often as it is old-fashioned but you may face it in literary texts. Have a look:

He felt guilty for he did answer her letters.

He got the job for his father was the CEO of the company.

Are They Interchangeable?

We cannot replace 'for' with 'to' or vice versa as they will drastically change the meaning of the sentence. For example:

He brought the box to me.

Here, the subject has physically delivered something to someone else.

He brought the box for me.

Here, the subject perhaps brought the box to the benefit of someone else.


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