Difference between TO and FOR

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Wondering when to use to vs. for? I’ll teach you the difference between to and for, with examples of how to use to and for in a sentence.

Don’t say: “I’m studying every day for improve my English.”

Say: “I’m studying every day to improve my English.”

Many English learners don’t know the difference between to and for! Here are some rules:

Use TO in these cases:

  1. Destination
    “We’re going to Paris.”
  2. What time it is
    “It’s a quarter to 2.”
  3. Distance
    “It’s about ten miles from my house to the university.”
  4. Comparing
    “I prefer sleeping to working.”
  5. Giving
    “I gave the book to my sister.”
  6. Motive/Reason – with verb
    “I came here to see you.”

Learn more: Talk TO or Talk WITH?

Use FOR in these cases:

  1. Benefits
    “Yogurt is good for your digestion.”
  2. Period of time
    “We’ve lived here for 2 years.”
  3. Schedule
    “I made an appointment for May 3.”
  4. Agree with 
    “Are you for or against the development of nuclear weapons?”
  5. Doing something to help someone
    “Could you carry these books for me?”
  6. Motive/Reason – with noun
    “Let’s go out for a drink.”
  7. Function – with verb (-ing form)
    “A ladle is a big spoon used for serving soup.”

As you can see in #6, TO or FOR can be used for a motive/reason, but TO is always with a verb, and FOR is always with a noun. Here’s a good example:

  • I came to New York  to work.
  • I came to New York  for a new job.

Now you know when to use for vs. to! If you like this lesson on the difference between for and to, check out my 600+ confusing words explained e-book.

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