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When to Use the Preposition "To" Instead of "For"

This is a question that pretty much every English learner has and it's not an easy question to answer. There are more than one way to use the word "to", which makes it complicated to provide a simple answer.

For example, the word "to" is used as part of an infinitive verb, like "to eat", "to sleep", and "to watch". The word "to" is also a preposition to add a noun to a phrase like when you say "go to school" and "he said hello to me".

It would be too complicated to explain all the meanings of "to" and how they are different than "for" in just one lesson, so instead of doing that, we will focus this lesson on when to use "to" as a preposition, which means when you are adding a noun like "to you", "to him", "to the students", "to the airport", or "to Friday".



Verbs about physically moving in a direction

Using "to" is perhaps easiest when thinking about describing a destination when the verb involves movement. In this case, the preposition "to" is like a short version of the preposition "toward", which means you are getting closer and closer to something.

For example, if you are driving, which means you are moving, and you are getting closer and closer to the store, you can say "I'm driving to the store."

Some common verbs which are related to movement and use "to" with the destination are given below:

  • I went to the beach.

  • She came to my office.

  • I drove to the airport.

  • He swam to the shore.

  • They walked to the park.

  • My dog ran to me.

  • The bird flew to its nest.

  • I moved to a new city.

  • He took us to his favorite restaurant.

  • The waitress brought the food to our table.

Verbs about movement or action in a direction but not physically

It is a little harder to understand when the verbs are not involving physical movement, but the concept is the same. There are some verbs that seem to imply a direction and the preposition "to" tells us the direction. You can group these verbs that use "to" with a non-physical direction as the following:

Transfer

  • I gave a gift to him.

  • I passed the salt to her.

  • I lent some money to him.

  • We donated some old clothes to a charity.

  • He sold his homemade pies to his neighbors.

  • I can transfer some money to you online.

  • Did you send an email to me?

  • He threw the ball to me.

  • She introduced me to her husband.

Transmitting Information (Including Speech Verbs)

  • I talked to her

  • She said something to me

  • The teacher explained the grammar rule to me

  • Some customers complained to the manager

  • He showed his award to everyone.

  • I'm writing this letter to you because...

  • We were listening to music.

Others

  • He invited me to his wedding.

  • She changed her hair color to red.



Practice

Look at the sentences below and fix the sentences that are using "for" incorrectly by changing the preposition to "to". Some sentences are correct. You only need to change the ones that are using the verbs from today's lesson (if the verb was not mentioned in today's lesson, then it is using "for" correctly).

  1. How long does it take to drive for the hospital?

  2. I did a favor for my friend.

  3. Thank you for inviting me for your party.

  4. She made a chocolate cake for me.

  5. I want to complain for the manager.

  6. She's talking for her sister on the phone.

  7. I bought these flowers for my girlfriend.

  8. I sold my used textbooks for another student.

  9. Are you hungry? I'll prepare some food for you.

  10. The tour guide took us for all the most famous sites in the city.

  11. Can we change the meeting time for 3pm?

  12. My mom always sends text messages for me.

  13. I work for an oil and gas company.

  14. My parents sometimes lend their car for me.

  15. Is the bag heavy? I can carry it for you.

  16. We walked to the beach.

  17. They introduced me for their kids.

  18. I love listening for the sound of the ocean.

  19. I asked for some help.

  20. Do you want me to show it for you?

Answers

  1. How long does it take to drive to the hospital?

  2. I did a favor for my friend.

  3. Thank you for inviting me to your party.

  4. She made a chocolate cake for me.

  5. I want to complain to the manager.

  6. She's talking to her sister on the phone.

  7. I bought these flowers for my girlfriend.

  8. I sold my used textbooks to another student.

  9. Are you hungry? I'll prepare some food for you.

  10. The tour guide took us to all the most famous sites in the city.

  11. Can we change the meeting time to 3pm?

  12. My mom always sends text messages to me.

  13. I work for an oil and gas company.

  14. My parents sometimes lend their car to me.

  15. Is the bag heavy? I can carry it to you.

  16. We walked to the beach.

  17. They introduced me to their kids.

  18. I love listening to the sound of the ocean.

  19. I asked for some help.

  20. Do you want me to show it to you?


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