This article will elucidate on the confusion between the most commonly used prepositions “to” and “for” by using them with examples. The difference between to and for has been a problematic situation for many. It is difficult to write essays in IELTS and solve reading questions if you do not have idea of how to use for and to in your sentences. Many students make mistakes in their essay writing when they exchange both of them incorrectly in their sentences. Both “for” and “to” are used to talk about purpose and both have the same meaning, therefore it is hard for a candidate to know when one should use them instead of the other.
What is the difference between to and for?
Both to and for are used to communicate why someone does something. But the difference lies in the fact that to is used with verb, whereas for is used with noun.
to + verb
We went there to buy food. (buy food is verb)
We are going there to visit our relatives. (visit our relatives is verb)
She needs money to buy a car. (buy a car is verb)
I went to the bank for get money. (INCORRECT)
I went to the bank to get money. (CORRECT)
We are going there for a vacation. (a vacation is noun)
I went to the store for milk. (milk is noun)
She needs money for food. (food is noun)
I baked a cake to your birthday. (INCORRECT)
I baked a cake for your birthday. (CORRECT)
How to follow the rules?
Here is another simple factor which should inculcate the difference between both of them. For must be used when we want to refer to a purpose or when something is to the benefit of somebody. It is mostly used with them, him, her, you etc. For example for him, for them, for you etc.
Remember the preposition “for” can be used with Noun+Verb
To is used when something is moved or transferred between locations or in the direction of a location.
Remember: preposition “to” is used with Verb+Noun
Examples of for vs to in sentences.
1. I went to the supermarket to/for buy oranges.
Explanation: after for/to we have “buy oranges”. In this case “for buy oranges” is meaningless and “to buy oranges” seems meaningful. The “to” is appropriate because we use to with buy not for.
2. I went to the supermarket for/to oranges. (for)
Explanation: after for/to we have “oranges”. In this case “to oranges” looks meaningless and “for oranges” seems meaningful. Hence for is correct preposition here.
3. A knife is used to/for cutting.
Explanation: after to/for we have “cutting”. Cutting is a verb and preposition “to” can never come before a verb only. Hence for is correct preposition here.
4. We are looking forward to/for meeting you.
Explanation: Hereafter to/for we have “meeting you”. In this case, for cannot come before verb+noun and hence preposition to is correct here.
5. He went to/for them.
Explanation: Hereafter for/to we have “them”. In this case, both can be used so we have to check what is written before preposition, “He went” is written here and after went, we use to preposition. Hence to is the correct preposition here.
6. I bought the gift for/to my mother.
Explanation: Hereafter for/to we have “my mother”. In this case, also both can be used and we have to look at what is written before the preposition. “I bought the gift” is written and here “gift for” is appropriate as it benefits a person.
7. He threw the ball for/to me.
Explanation: Hereafter for/to we have “me”. In this case, both can be used before me. Let us check what is written before preposition and it is “He threw the ball” here the ball is moving in a direction so “to” is appropriate here.
8. I am looking to/for the supervisor.
Explanation: Hereafter to/for we have “supervisor”. In this case, both can be used so let us check which one is appropriate by looking at what is written before prepositions. It is “I am looking”, here “looking for” is appropriate as it has a reason behind it. The reason here is finding someone.
9. I am planning to/for a trip.
Explanation: Hereafter to/for we have “a trip”. Here for is appropriate as we can see that before preposition it is “I am planning” so there is a reason and plan behind it. Hence for is an appropriate preposition.
10. They donate money to/in charity
Explanation: Here after to/in we have charity, now both can come here so we have to look what is written before preposition’s place here in this case it is “They donate money” so money is donated “to”, so to is the correct preposition
11. Do you use a corkscrew for/to opening bottles?
Explanation: Here after preposition we have “opening bottles” now it is a verb with noun. Therefore for preposition fits here.
12. Do you use a corkscrew for/to open bottles?
Explanation: Here after the preposition we have “open bottles”, here note that there is no verb. We use to preposition when we use “open bottles” hence to is correct preposition
13. Is this the road for/to Rome?
Here after preposition we have a noun “Rome”. Let us see how to solve this question, here we can see that before the place of preposition we have “Is this the road” here we are questioning and hence for will come here
14. Would you like to go to/for the cinema tonight? (to)
In the below examples see the usage of for with you, her, him, and them. But check the usage with “me” as it can be used with both for and to.
15. I took flowers for/to you. (for)
16. He went on the bridge to/for see some fish. (to)
17. She did the operation to/for her. (for)
18. He’s doing this exercise to/for understand the lesson. (to)
19. They looked at this picture many times to/for remember it. (to)
20. I created this test to/for you. (for)
21. No, she just made a sandwich for/to me. (for)
22. Let us go to/for work. (to)
23. Let us go for/to a walk (for)
24. Don’t jump to/for conclusions. (to)
25. Please make a reservation for/to us at the restaurant. (for)
26. You will have to/for report that to the director. (to)
27. Let us go to/for school. (to)
28. Did your mom cook dinner for/to you? (for)
29. Let us go to/for bed. (to)
30. He is going to/for Germany. (to)
31. She is up to/for date. (to)
32. He always loved to/for sing. (to)
33. I want to/for talk with you. (to)
34. I bought this present for/to you. (for)
35. It is best to/for my knowledge. (to)
36. I will cook for/to you if you would like. (for)
37. Let us go to/for a ride. (for)
38. He asked the bank teller for/to cash a check for him. (to)
39. It sounds good for/to me. (to)
40. He was invited for/to the party. (to)
41. She cashed the check to/for him. (for)
42. According to/for the newspaper. (to)
43. She admitted her mistake for/to her parents. (to)
44. Let us go for/to church. (to)
45. Could you close the door for/to me? (for)
46. She translated that article to/for us. (for)
47. I will do that to/for you. (for)
48. He went to England for/to a Sales Conference. (to)
49. He decided to/for help Mary. (to)
50. She went to/for the supermarket. (to)
51. I work for/to Company XYZ. (for)
52. We stopped at the bar to/for a drink. (for)
53. This is interesting for/to me. (to)
54. I am looking forward for/to talking to you again. (to)
55. Let us go to/for London. (to)
56. Let us go for/to a drive. (for)
57. Let us go for/to it. (for)
58. We stopped at a bar to/for have a drink. (to)
59. My friend has been living in Canada from/for two years. (for)
60. It is an important aspect of/in our lives (of)
61. Where did you get this at/from? (from)
62. money is the most important factor for/in achieving happiness (in)
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