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What’s the difference between TO and FOR? Finally explained!

Have you ever wondered whether you should use to or for? If that’s the case, then this article is for you. From the most beginner’s concepts to more advanced explanations and examples. Remember you can also download it in PDF.

What you will find in this guide:

  1. 1. Starting with the basics
  2. 2. When should you use “TO”?
  3. 3. When should you use “FOR”?
  4. 4. Confusing cases
  5. 5. Practice exercises with solutions

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1. Difference between TO and For - Let’s start with the basics...

To become an effective communicator, your grammar doesn't have to be perfect. However, some mistakes can lead to misunderstandings. If you are not sure about when to use TO or FOR, follow these three basic rules:

The Difference Between To and For - Rules Talaera Tips

Rule 1: if there is a verb, use TO + infinitive

  • I came here to talk to you.
  • I study every day to improve my English.

Rule 2: if there is a noun, use FOR

  • He came for the results.
  • I did this for the team.

Rule 3: for definitions with the verb “to be”, you can use FOR + verb-ing

  • The contract is for ensuring your needs are covered.
  • The security guards are for keeping the area safe.

Extra Rule: with verbs, you can use FOR + verb-ing, but if you can replace it with TO + infinitive, do it!

  • Use the template for writing a perfect email. (OK) → Use the template to write a perfect email. (better)
  • This tool is used for debugging the system. (OK) → This tool is used to debug the system. (better)

2. When should you use “TO”?

When to use the preposition TO

a. To indicate the destination

We use TO when we indicate the destination, and usually there is movement involved. We often use verbs such as: go to, travel to, come to, head to, mail to, send to.

  • Our CEO is going to Rome tomorrow.
  • We’ll head to the headquarters in a second.
  • I am traveling to our branch in Bristol next month.

b. In the structure “from … to …”

  • It’s about 5km from my house to the university.
  • I work from 5 to 9.

c. To tell the time (usually in the UK)

In the USA, it is quite common to tell the time by saying the hour + the minutes.


  • 5:30 - It’s five thirty.
  • 8:50 - It’s eight fifty.

However, especially in the UK, it is very common to express how many minutes there are left until you reach the next hour, once it is 30 minutes after o’clock.


  • 5:40 - it’s twenty to six.
  • 8:50 - it’s ten to nine.
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d. Use TO with the following verbs

If you are using the following verbs, you will need the preposition to:


I advise you to start as soon as possible.


Anna agreed to help me with the report.


We are not allowed to disclose any information.


The forecast appeared to be better for the next quarter.


He began to give his presentation a bit later than expected.


I chose to stay in the company.


She claimed to know more than the rest of the team.


She continued to talk.


We decided to go ahead with the deal..


He demanded to speak to Ms. Liu.


He deserves to go to jail.


We expect you to be transparent with us.


He failed to get enough money to pay for the new project.


She happened to be away during the negotiations..


Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.


I hope to live up to your expectations.


We intend to visit your offices next month.


They invited us to visit their new office.


I learned to speak Japanese when I was a kid.


We managed to raise enough money for the project.


We need to find a better solution.


He offered to take on all the responsibilities.


We plan to launch the product by the end of the year.


He’s just pretending to have many offers on the table.


They promised to comply with all the new regulations.


They refused to adapt to our policies.


It seems to be a tough market.


She swore to tell the truth.


She taught me to write better emails.


He tends to speak too fast when he is nervous.


He threatened to leave the company.


We want to finish this section by tomorrow.


I wish to stay.

would like

We would like to start now.

would prefer

I would prefer to do it on my own.

e. Use TO with the following expressions

to some extent

Everyone will have to compromise to some extent

to date

I wrote to him two months ago, but I haven’t received any response to date.

to excess

They both spend to excess.

to my surprise

to the surprise of her colleagues, she resigned.

to my credit

to her credit, she had never betrayed them.

to my face

I can’t believe he lied to my face.

to this day

The tradition continues to this day.

to the detriment of

He puts all his time into his career, to the detriment of his personal life.

to the satisfaction of

We want to solve the problem to the satisfaction of all the employees.

3. When should you use “FOR”?

When to use the preposition FOR - Talaera tips

a. Expressing the benefits of something

  • Getting this certificate will be good for your career.
  • Fruits and vegetables are good for your health.

b. Doing a favor

  • He picked up the mail for me.
  • I didn’t know how to write the letter and she did it for me.

c. Giving a reason, so you can replace it with “for the reason of”

  • He was fired for being late. (= He was fired for the reason of being late.)
  • She was punished for disclosing important information. (= She was punished for the reason of disclosing important information.)

d. For periods of time (“for how long?”)

  • I have worked here for 5 years.
  • We were negotiating for 3 hours.

e. Scheduling something for the future

  • I set up our interview for May 4.
  • I will schedule our next session for next Tuesday.

f. Use FOR with the following expressions

for good


for a living

as a profession

for sale

intended to be sold

for sure


for now/for the time being

until some other arrangement is made

for a while

for a period of time

for free

with no charge

for the record

so that the true facts are recorded or known

for the best

considering all the circumstances, it is the best thing that could have happened

for this reason


for all I care

I do not care

for all I know

I do not know, but it is possible

for chicken feed

for almost no money


4. Confusing cases - TO or FOR?

We gave you some rules with lots of examples. However, there are some situations where the difference between to and for is not so clear. We’ll look at them and give some tips to make your life easier.

a. Expressing goals

If you want to express a goal, and you are using a verb, then you should use TO + infinitive verb.

  • I got this certification to increase my chances of being promoted.

**Note: It is also possible to use FOR to express a goal. However, it doesn’t always work, so if you have doubts, always use TO + infinitive.

**Careful: Never use FOR + infinitive!

  • I went to the office for talk with my boss. → I went to the office to talk with my boss.

b. “For you” or “To you”? People and pronouns

Should you say “I sent this letter to you” or “I sent this letter for you”? The answer is - both are possible, depending on what you mean. 

  • 'I sent this letter to you' means that, hopefully, you will receive my letter, because you are the recipient.
  • 'I sent this letter for you' means that I did you a favor and took the letter to the mailbox, but the recipient is a third person.

So remember these two rules:

#1 If there is a transfer of something to someone → TO

  • Can you give this to her?
  • I wrote the letter to her. (I wrote the letter and she will receive it soon)

#2 If the person will benefit from a service or a favor → FOR

  • This present is for him.
  • I wrote the letter for her. (She wasn’t able to write it and I did it for her as a favor)

Still not clear? Get in touch with us and one of our teachers will have a one-on-one session with you to explain the differences. Keep learning grammar with this article on prepositions of time.

5. Practice exercises with solutions

Fill the blanks with TO or FOR and then check your answers here.

  1. I am writing an email __ find out the details.
  2. We’re traveling __ Singapore in two months.
  3. I’ll set up our next meeting __ Monday.
  4. They came __ the results.
  5. He’ll head __ the new branch in the morning.
  6. You’re seeing Sue at the weekend, right? Can you give this present __ her?
  7. There are some good points, but also many negatives, so I only agree __ some extent.
  8. I have to prepare a report __ the meeting.
  9. I think they went a bit too far, but she was fired __ being late.
  10. This contract is only __ ensuring that your needs are covered.
  11. You can use this tool __ debug the system.
  12. He came quite early, at quarter __ five.
  13. She continued __ talk.
  14. Sarah sent the parcel __ me because I had the flu and couldn’t go out.
  15. They need __ provide all their details before we sign the agreement.
  16. I would love __ visit you in Rome.
  17. He’s super sweet, he picked up the parcel __ me.
  18. We always have happy hour on Fridays. The tradition started 10 years ago and it continues __ this day.
  19. The whole team was sad about the news - apparently he left the company __ good.
  20. Roy hasn’t got any money so I’ll have to pay the bill ___ him.
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Hopefully, now you know the difference between these two prepositions, although having a teacher you can practice your grammar and speaking with is one of the most effective ways of learning a language. If you are interested in trying our online Business English training, you can do it for free. Get in touch!

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