What’s the difference between TO and FOR? We use the words TO and FOR to show a reason for our actions. It’s WHY we do something.
TO is used with a verb. “I came to eat lunch.” (Eat is a verb.)
FOR is used with a noun. “I came for lunch.” (Lunch is a noun.)
TO and FOR
We use the words TO and FOR to show a reason for our actions. It’s why we do something.
- I came home TO eat lunch.
- I came home FOR lunch.
Both of these sentences answer a WHY question. Why did you come home? We can use the prepositions TO and FOR to answer these” WHY” questions and explain our reasons.
What’s the difference? How can I use these words correctly?
The difference is simple,
TO will be used with a verb.
- I came to eat lunch.
FOR will be used with a noun.
- I came for lunch.
- I bought this computer to give to my daughter.
(The verb give follows the preposition to in the sentence.)
- I bought this computer for my daughter.
(The noun phrase my daughter follows the preposition for in this sentence.)
TO and FOR meaning
According to the list on Wikipedia of the 100 most common words in the English language, the preposition TO is number three!
It’s the third most commonly used word in English. I think one of the reasons is the preposition TO has many uses, we can use it in many ways.
The entry at Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries has 18 different uses.
TO will be used with a verb to make the infinitive form. TO + a verb can show a reason.
- I have a cup of chamomile tea every night to help me sleep.
- Jamie exercises every day to stay healthy.
- I’m going to the store to get some milk.
- Scott went to the library to borrow a book.
If you’re struggling to understand the difference between the verbs Lend and Borrow, click the link to clear up your confusion.
The Preposition FOR is another popular word, It ranks number 13 on the same list of the 100 most popular commonly used English words.
The same as the preposition TO, we can use it in many ways.
The entry at Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries has 20 different uses! The definition we are using in this post is: used to show a reason or cause.
FOR will be used with a noun. FOR + a noun can show a reason.
- I’m going to boil some water for a cup of tea.
- Jamie exercises every day for his health.
- I’m going to the store for some milk.
- Scott went to the library for a book he’s interested in.
TO you or FOR you?
TO – preposition: used to show the person or thing that receives something
- I want to give this to you. (Receive this)
- Josh sent a message to you this morning. Did you get it yet? (Receive the message)
- If you’re not still sure I can explain it to you after lunch. (Receive the information)
FOR – preposition: in order to help somebody/something
When we do something for someone it’s like doing them a favor, helping them.
- Dave has translated the message into natural English for you.
- I stopped by the store and bought some snacks for you.
- We saved some pizza for you if you’re still hungry.
Compare these examples:
I replied TO Sean’s message by mistake. I actually wrote the message FOR Josh.
For can be used to show who is intended to have or use something or where something is intended to be put – Josh was supposed to (intended to) get the message. [Suppose To or Supposed To link]
TO and FOR other uses
We also use the preposition TO in these cases.
- I went to Canada last summer.
- Let’s go to the movies this Saturday.
- I gave some chocolates to my wife.
- I gave some advice to Harry but I don’t think he’ll take it.
It’s a 6-minute walk to the train station.
It is a few kilometers to the library from here, I think we should ride our bikes.
We will use the preposition FOR in these cases
An amount of time
I’ll be gone for about 30 minutes.
Shelly has been in Jamaica for 6 days. She must be having fun.
- I shovel the driveway for my neighbors when we get a lot of snow.
- Lloyd always carries heavy bags for his wife.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables have lots of vitamins. They’re very good for you.
- Using less plastic is good for the environment.
Go TO Vs. Go FOR
We go TO a place or a location but we go FOR something we want to have. Compare these examples.
|Got to school/college/university|
Go to work
Go to the store
Go to the gym
Go to a movie
Go to Tokyo
Go to the bank
Go to bed
|Go for a walk/ a jog /a drive|
[The noun forms of verbs of movement]
Go for a drink/ a beer/ a coffee
Go for a bite
[Food or drinks are used with FOR]
Go for it!
[This means do your best to achieve something]
TO and FOR Conclusion
To show a reason or answer a why question just follow this pattern:
- TO + verb
- FOR + noun
Remember this basic rule and you will use these words correctly every time.
TO or FOR quiz
Click here to open the Google Quiz in a new window.
TO vs FOR Quiz answer AUDIO
-Quizzes are a great way to test your English skill.
– Audio files are a great way to improve your English listening skills.
I put these two awesome tools together to really help you take your English to the next level. *This is audio of me reading the correct answers to the quiz. Don’t listen until AFTER you have answered the quiz questions!
TO Vs. FOR exercises pdf
Download the Quiz as a printable PDF worksheet. Great for teachers to use with private or group classes.