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When to use ‘to’ and ‘for’?


Some prepositions are tricky and the choice between ‘to’ and ‘for’ is a tricky one for sure! It might get quite puzzling as to when to use ‘to’ and ‘for in the sentence. ‘To’ and ‘for’ are prepositions that are often confused. The basic difference between ‘to’ and ‘for’ are as follows:

For usually tells us about the use of something, a reason or a purpose.

To usually shows the direction of something; moving towards.

Let’s take a look at these sets of sentences to see one of the most confusing choices between ‘to’ and ‘for’ and how they are used wrongly.

Consider this:
 ‘I am going for school now.’


‘I am going to school now.’


Consider this now:

‘I go to singing classes.’


‘I go for singing classes.’


While both options in both the sets of sentences seem similar in action, where do you think, the difference in choosing between ‘to’ and ‘for’ lies?

When it’s a specification destination that we are talking about, then ‘to’ is the right choice. However, in the second set of sentences, the destination is more for a motive. ‘Singing classes’ defines the motive, rather than the specific destination. So, ‘for’ becomes the right choice. Suppose the sentence also gave the destination of the singing classes held, then ‘to’ would have been the right choice.

‘I go to Bangalore Music Singing Classes.’

Let’s see some rules regarding when to use ‘To’ and ‘For’:

TIME: It is quarter to eight PERIOD OF TIME: I have worked there for ten years
GIVING: Can you donate this book to her? HELPING OUT: Would you wash this for me?
DISTANCE BETWEEN 2 POINTS: It is about 5 miles from home to school. SCHEDULE: I have taken an appointment for 3 o’clock this afternoon
COMPARING: I prefer coffee to tea IN FAVOUR OF: Are you for or against the suggestion?
INSTRUCTION ORIENTED: She has to drink milk. BENEFITS: Drinking milk is good for her.
MOTIVE (with verb): I went to play with her. MOTIVE (with noun): Let’s go for a movie.
FUNCTION (with verb in the base form): I use chopsticks to eat noodles. FUNCTION (with verb in the –ing form): Chopsticks are used for eating noodles.
WITH INFINITIVES: It is time to eat. WITH NOUN/GERUND: It is time for lunch.OR
Stopping here for lunch is a good idea.
DESTINATION: They are going to London MOVEMENT TOWARDS: They left for London.
SPECIFIC DESTINATION FOR ACTIVITY: I will go to office tomorrow. TO BE PART OF ACTIVITY: I will go for work tomorrow.

For those who don’t know what a gerund is: It is nothing but a verb form which functions as a noun in a sentence. It is formed by adding –ing to the verb. For example, ‘Shopping with you is always fun.’ Here the word ‘shopping’ is a gerund.

 For more exercises and information on the gerund and infinitives, you may visit About Gerunds and Infinitives

Here are some teasers for you! You may leave your answers in the comments section below.

  1. We have to work together _______ (to/for) make this happen.
  2. Yogurt is good ________ (to/for) digestion.
  3. They need it _________ (to/for) building the spaceship.
  4. I have to go _________ (to/for) school tomorrow.
  5. I have to go ________ (to/for) treatment tomorrow.
  6. Here are some flowers _________ (to/for) you.
  7. He gave a gift ______ (to/for) John.
  8. She baked a cake _________ (to/for) Alice.
  9. Here are some medicines __________ (to/for) make you feel better.
  10. I was late _______ (to/for) work today.

Answers: to, for, for, to, for, for, to, for, to, for

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