What is the difference between “to” and “for”?

Hello everyone, welcome to Lingua Matik. Today, we will learn the difference between “to” and “for” and when to use either of them.

When to Use FOR

 For is a preposition, and it should be followed by a noun or and –ing verb.

For example;

  • We should stand for the poor.

The poor is a noun in this case.

When to Use TO

To in the other hand has two uses: one is preposition, the other one is infinitive indicator.

 When to is used as a preposition it is followed by a noun .

  • I went to school.

School is a noun so in this case to is a preposition.

 When to is used as an infinitive indicator , it should be followed by a verb.

  • I tried to talk to him but he didn’t answer.

Talk is an infinitive verb so in this case to is used as infinitive indicator.

Now , look at this table, It’s gonna help you understand the cases in which we need to use to and for.

Use to in these cases: Use for in these cases:
Destination
– We’re going to Istanbul.
– I’m walking to the bus stop.
Benefits
– Vegetables are good for your health.
– It’s good for him to take a break.
Going from A to B
– We travelled from New York to Washington.
Period of time
– We’ve lived here for 20 years.
I’ve known him for my entire life.  
Distance
– It’s about ten miles from my house to the university.
      Schedule
– I made an appointment for March 2nd.
Giving someone something
I gave the book to my sister.
– I gave my old clothes to the shelter.
Doing something to help someone
– Could you carry these bags for me?
– Can you call the company for me and cancel my meeting?
Motive/Reason – with verb
I came here to see you.
I called to tell you that I love you
Motive/Reason – with noun
Let’s go out for coffee.
  Function – with verb (-ing form)
The hammer is used for breaking the glass.

As you can see TO or FOR can be used for a motive/reason, but TO is always with a verb, and FOR is always with a noun. Here’s a good example:

  • I did these exercises to help a friend .

 (The reason why I did the exercises was to help my friend – verb in infinitive.

  • I did these exercises for a friend.

(The reason why I did the exercises for my friend was because my friend probably did not know how to do them, but it could also have been “for fun”, “for practising” – a noun)

For is used to talk about purpose only when it is followed by a noun.

  • We stopped at the bar for a drink.
  • I went to Berlin for a conference.

For cannot be used before a verb to express a person’s purpose. Instead, we use to.

We stopped at the bar to have a drink. (NOT We stopped at the bar  for having a drink.)
I went to Berlin to attend a conference. 
(NOT I went to Berlin for attending a conference.)

Some Expressions with TO and FOR

GO TO EXPRESSIONS GO FOR EXPRESSIONS
go to work
go to school
go to bed
go to church
go to town
go to court
go to hell
go to Germany
go to the bank
go to the office
go for a walk
go for a ride
go for a drive
go for a beer
go for it
go for a wee
go for a break
go for a coffee
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