Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

Quick English Grammar Tip: "To" Versus "For"

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Mon, Jul 29, 2013 @ 11:26 AM

to versus for ESL grammar  The English language can be complicated sometimes!

Are you tired of making the same tiny (or major) grammar mistakes over and over again?

Here is an example of a common grammar mistake that you might be making: Do you get confused about when to use "for" and when to use "to" in everyday English?

If so, today's lesson is for you. I will explain when to use both of these and I will give you a bunch of useful examples so that you can stop making those pesky grammar mistakes!




1) When to use "to"

TO indicates direction, transferUse "to" when there is some kind of transfer happening or something is being moved from one place to another. "To" expresses direction.

Here are a few examples:

  • "We went from the restaurant to the party."
  • "Talk to your teacher and get more information about the exam."
  • "I go to the office every morning at 9am."
  • "He sold his car to me for $5,000."




2) When to use "for"

Use FOR when you talk about doing something for someone1) Use "for" when something is being done to benefit something or someone else.

2) Use "for" when you are trying to express purpose or the reason that something is happening



  • "I bought this gift for you."
  • "He runs for his health."
  • "Bring this tea upstairs for your grandmother."
  • "Buckle up for safety."


3) Now compare both

person making a presentation at workExample 1:

  • "My friend brought lunch to me." (My friend physically carried the lunch and delivered it to me)


  • "My friend brought lunch for me." (My friend paid for my lunch because he wanted to do something nice for me)


Example 2:

  • "I made a quick phone call to my mom." (I called with the intention of speaking with my mom)


  • "I made a quick phone call for my mom." (My mom wasn't able to make the call so I made the call for her)



4) Now take a quiz!


moving day quiz on TO and FORMary: Thanks for helping me move into my new apartment, Mike!

Mike: Oh you are welcome, it'll be much easier ___1__ you if I help.

Mary: Are any of your friends going to come and help also?

Mike: Yeah, I think Jason is going to come. He'll bring the moving van __2__ your house on Saturday morning at 9am so we can get started.

Mary: Oh great. I want to cook some lunch __3__ you guys. What do you like?

Mike: Why don't we just take a lunch break and head down __4__ my favorite Japanese restaurant? It's right next to your new apartment.

Mary: That sounds like a great way to break up the day and to get some more energy __5___ the rest of the afternoon.

Mike: Perfect! Then I will see you on Saturday around 10am.

Mary: Great, see ya then


Answers: 1- for, 2- to, 3- for, 4- to, 5- for




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Photo credit: Rob Bixby, antony_mayfield, FutUndBeidi, ImagineCup, Bekathwia

Topics: English Lessons, English grammar

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