The Difference between “For” and “To”

Shana Goodwin, November 18, 2021

“For” and “to” are both prepositions, although “for” is sometimes used as a conjunction as well. The most “for” and “to” confusions happen when we’re talking about a reason or function. This is because we can use both words to do this, but they must be followed by certain parts of speech. The simplest explanation for knowing when to use “to” or “for” when talking about a reason or function is that “for” is followed by a noun or gerund, and “to” is followed by a verb. Examples: The ciclovía is a great place for walking and biking. The ciclovía is a great place to walk and bike.

Another case that is sometimes confusing is when talking about a person who is receiving an action or a thing. In these situations, it depends on the verb being used. “To” is used with verbs such as “give,” “send,” or “write,” and “for” is used with verbs such as “make,” “buy,” or “bake.” Examples: She gave a delicious cheesecake to me on my birthday. She baked a delicious cheesecake for me on my birthday.

In other situations, it’s easier to know which to use. Here are some more cases where we use “for”:

  • Time periods. My sister studied at TWU for five years.
  • Exchanges. I’ll give you three hundred dollars for that old bike.
  • Plans and schedules. He already has plans for Christmas Eve, so we’ll invite him over another time.

And here are some situations in which we use “to”:

  • Direction or destination. Her cousins traveled to Sao Paolo last year.
  • Telling time. We use “to” to say how many minutes until the hour. It’s five minutes to 10:00.
  • Number ranges. I counted sixty to seventy white egrets on the lake.