What’s the difference between FOR and TO? 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 on 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

1. Let’s start with the basics...

If you are not use 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 everyday 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)

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2. When should you use “TO”?

When to use the preposition TO

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.

In the construction “from … to …”

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

To tell the time

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

Examples:

  • 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.

Examples:

  • 5:40 - it’s twenty to six.
  • 8:50 - it’s ten to nine.

Use TO with the following verbs

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


advise

I advise you to start as soon as possible.

agree

Anna agreed to help me with the report.

allow

We are not allowed to disclose any information.

appear

The forecast appeared to be better for the next quarter.

begin

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

choose

I chose to stay in the company.

claim

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

continue

She continued to talk.

decide

We decided to go ahead with the deal..

demand

He demanded to speak to Ms. Liu.

deserve

He deserves to go to jail.

expect

We expect you to be transparent with us.

fail

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

happen

She happened to be away during the negotiations..

hesitate

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

hope

I hope to live up to your expectations.

intend

We intend to visit your offices next month.

invite

They invited us to visit their new office.

learn

I learned to speak Japanese when I was a kid.

manage

We managed to raise enough money for the project.

need

We need to find a better solution.

offer

He offered to take on all the responsibilities.

plan

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

pretend

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

promise

They promised to comply with all the new regulations.

refuse

They refused to adapt to our policies.

seem

It seems to be a tough market.

swear

She swore to tell the truth.

teach

She taught me to write better emails.

tend

He tends to speak too fast when he is nervous.

threaten

He threatened to leave the company.

want

We want to finish this section by tomorrow.

wish

I wish to stay.

would like

We would like to start now.

would prefer

I would prefer to do it on my own.

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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

Expressing the benefits of something

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

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.

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.)

For periods of time (“for how long?”)

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

Scheduling something for the future

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

Use FOR with the following expressions

for good

permanently

for a living

as a profession

for sale

intended to be sold

for sure

definitely

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

therefore

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

 

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4. Confusing cases - TO or FOR?

Talaera Difference between to and 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.

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.

“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 an one of our teachers will have a one-on-one session with you to explain you the differences.

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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.

 

CHECK YOUR ANSWERS HERE

 

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 with us or fill out the form clicking on the following button:

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