If you’ve ever taken a writing course, you’ve probably been told that using correct grammar is essential. But now and then, even the most observant writers forget to check their grammar with each sentence they write. To put it another way, we all make common English mistakes from time to time. 

However, these little slips up can have a significant impact on the way your reader takes in what you’re saying. Although there are many different grammar rules, this article will explain the main differences between two familiar words: ‘to’ and ‘for’, so that your writing always sounds clear and precise.

What is the difference between ‘for’ and ‘to’

Let’s start with the basics. Like most learners who have difficulty identifying the differences between to and too, many struggles with knowing when to use “to” and “for.” When you want to use ‘to’ in a sentence, you’re expressing a relationship between two things: ‘to’ is the verb that refers to the relationship. For instance, in the sentence “I want to eat,” you’re relating the subject “I” to the verb “want.”

In contrast, ‘for’ is a preposition that links nouns to each other. ‘For’ does not directly relate to the verb it precedes. For example, in “I am for my family,” the word “for” does not directly relate to the verb “am.” It links the noun “my family” to the rest of the sentence.

If you are looking for the different usage of these two words, then there is no need to worry. You can use it in a sentence to make it sound more natural and less confusing.

Learn how to use “to” and “for”

English grammar rules aren’t the easiest to master, and it is undoubtedly more effortless when you get help. You can improve your English grammar and learn the difference between ‘to’ and ‘for’ by getting an online English tutor on italki.

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The correct way to use ‘to’ in a sentence

The most common way to use ‘to’ in a sentence is as a preposition. “I want to go.” You may also use it as a conjunction, indicating a cause or effect. In addition, ‘to’ can indicate a means of transportation.

For example:  

  • “My brother got sick to his stomach.”
  • “I would go to school on a rocket ship.”

And, ‘to’ can also be used as an infinitive verb, indicating the result of an action. For example: “I want to go to bed.” 

The correct way to use ‘for’ in a sentence

To use ‘for’ correctly in a sentence, it must be used as a conjunction to indicate the purpose of something. For example: “For eating, I would serve spaghetti.” And, ‘for’ should not be used as a preposition. In addition, ‘for’ can be used to indicate something that is given by or offered by someone or something. For example: “For dinner, my parents made spaghetti.”

Using to vs. for to talk about reason and purpose

There’s a common misconception that ‘to’ is used only for talking about reason and purpose, while ‘for’ is reserved for things like transportation. However, this is incorrect. ‘To’ can be used to describe reasons, and ‘for’ can be used to indicate purpose.

For instance:

  • “I traveled to France to learn French.”
  • “I went to Greece for my sister’s wedding.”

Here, ‘to’ and ‘for’ indicate reason and purpose. So how do you know which to use and when? To use both correctly, use ‘to’ when the purpose or reason is a verb and ‘for’ when the reason or purpose is a noun.

Other uses of the word to

These are some other instances where it is grammatically correct to use the word ‘to’:

  • Use ‘to’ when talking about movement or a change in direction

When what you are communicating is indicative of movement or a change in direction, ‘to’ serves as a preposition that shows that something has moved from one place to another.

For example:

  • My family is moving to Texas – an indicative movement from one place to another
  • Please take these books to Linda. – suggests a transfer of books from the speaker ‘to’ Linda.
  • Use ‘to’ with English infinitive verbs

The infinitive form of any English word would include the word ‘to.’ It is common to see this construct in the English language. Here are some examples:

  • I love to eat.
  • Charles hates to walk in the winter seasons.
  • He is going to meet Steven at 11.
  • Use ‘to’ when comparing two things 

Another common way of using the word ‘to’ in English is comparing two things and expressing your preference for one thing over the other. For example:

  • I prefer sweet treats to savory ones.
  • I prefer watching movie adaptations of books to reading them.

Other uses of the word for

‘For’ is often mistakenly used as a replacement for ‘to’ since it is used both as a preposition and a conjunction. But, it is time to learn other uses of the word ‘for’ and how to use it correctly in English grammar.

  • Use ‘for’ when expressing thanks or gratitude

It is typical to use the ‘for’ when thanking a person or showing gratitude. ‘For’ explains why or for what you are thanking the person. In this context, ‘for’ is followed by a gerund (a verb that ends in ‘-ing’) or a noun.

For example:

  • Thank you for coming over. Your presence means a lot
  • Thank you for teaching me to play monopoly.
  • Use ‘for’ when talking about a duration of time

You can also use ‘for’ to communicate a duration of time during which something takes place. Here are some examples:

  • I was at the salon for two hours to get my nails done.
  • We have been married for six years now.
  • Use ‘for’ when expressing support and agreement

When ‘for’ is used in this context, it is indicative of an agreement with or support for a cause. See a few examples below:

  • I am all for budget cuts. We have been spending way too much lately.
  • Are you for or against the women’s movement for equal pay?

How to Remember the Difference between ‘To’ and ‘For’

Now that you know the correct way to use ‘to’ and ‘for’ in sentences, it’s time to put these grammar words to good use. To help you remember how to use these words in sentences, try doing practice with the exercises below:

1.      Jack goes ____ Paris ____ see his fiancé.

2.      They had been dating ____ five years till he proposed last summer.

3.      He is now looking ____ a new job.

4.      So he can move ____ to Paris to be with her, although he prefers New York ____ to Paris.

5.      Thank you ____ asking about Jack and caring about his well-being.

If you answered the quiz correctly, then you also enjoyed the sweet story about Jack. We hope that was a helpful review of “to” vs. “for”.


To write clearly and concisely, you need to know how to use the right grammar words in sentences properly. And while grammar rules may seem confusing, you’ll be happy to know that they’re pretty simple once you understand how they work. If things get way over your head, don’t forget to ask for help. Book English grammar lessons with italki today!