Difference between To and For

The prepositions to and for are very easy to confuse! Here are some rules:

Intermediate Level

Use TO In These Cases:

  1. Destination
    “We’re going to Paris.”
  2. What time it is
    “It’s a quarter to 2.”
  3. Distance
    “It’s about ten miles from my house to the university.”
  4. Comparing
    “I prefer sleeping to working.”
  5. Giving
    “I gave the book to my sister.”
  6. Motive/Reason – with verb
    “I came here to see you.”

Use FOR In These Cases:

  1. Benefits
    “Yogurt is good for your digestion.”
  2. Period of time
    “We’ve lived here for 2 years.”
  3. Schedule
    “I made an appointment for May 3.”
  4. Agree with 
    “Are you for or against the development of nuclear weapons?”
  5. Doing something to help someone
    “Could you carry these books for me?”
  6. Motive/Reason – with noun
    “Let’s go out for a drink.”
  7. Function – with verb (-ing form)
    “A ladle is a big spoon used for serving soup.”

As you can see in #6, 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 came to New York  to work.
  • I came to New York  for a new job.

See more examples below.

I gave a present to him. = I gave him a present.
I’ll show the figures to you. = I’ll show you the figures.
He sold a car to me. = He sold me a car.
He sent a letter to Mary. = He sent Mary a letter.
Can you lend this book to me? = Can you lend me this book?
The boss told a joke to us. = The boss told us a joke.
Who teaches English to them? = Who teaches them English?
I paid $10 to the repairman. = I paid the repairman $10.
Will you pass the sugar to me? = Will you pass me the sugar?
Read a story to the children. = Read the children a story.
I wrote a letter to my friend. = I wrote my friend a letter.
Hand that book to me, please. = Hand me that book, please.
He offered a job to Mary. = He offered Mary a job.
He’ll bring something to me. = He’ll bring me something.
She sang a lullaby to the baby. = She sang the baby a lullaby.
I’ll throw the ball to you. = I’ll throw you the ball.
Let me buy a present for you. = Let me buy you a present.
I got some food for you. = I got you some food.
She made a sandwich for me. = She made me a sandwich.
Did she cook dinner for you? = Did she cook you dinner?
Can you do a favor for me? = Can you do me a favor?
He can find a job for you. = He can find you a job.
He left a message for you. = He left you a message.
Shall I pour more tea for you? = Shall I pour you more tea?
Reserve hotel rooms for us. = Reserve us hotel rooms.
Save the stamps for him. = Save him the stamps.

Existem também verbos que só aceitam o objeto indireto quando acompanhado de preposição. Exemplos:

The teacher said “Good morning” to the students.
He’s going to introduce Mary to his family.
I already explained the project to the staff.
Mr. Cole described the new house to his wife.
I sometimes speak English to (with) my wife.
Bob reported the accident to the police.
I repeated your ideas to my parents.
He admitted his mistake to the boss.
I’ll mention your plan to the director.
Dr. Bishop recommends this medicine to some patients.
Richard has announced his engagement to his friends.
It sounds good to me.
The salesgirl suggested a gift to Philip.
Can you carry the suitcases for me?
Could you open the door for me?
He asked the bank teller to cash a check for him.
Doctors like to prescribe medicine for the patients.
She is going to prepare the meal for the guests.
I asked her to sign the letter for me.
Can you hold this for me, please?
I changed the traveler’s checks for you.
I asked the secretary to make an appointment for me.
He translated an article for me.
I recorded a tape for you.
I’ll take the car to the mechanic for you.
The salesgirl suggested Philip a gift for his girlfriend.
Can you play the piano for me?

Na verdade, quase qualquer verbo aceita o adjunto preposicional for. São portanto ilimitadas as possibilidades de FOR VERBS neste segundo grupo. Observe-se que mesmo os TO VERBS, além de aceitarem o objeto indireto precedido pela preposição to, também aceitam o adjunto preposicional for, porém com outro sentido. Ex:

I sent a letter to Mary.I sent a letter for Mary.No primeiro exemplo, Mary mora noutro lugar e eu lhe escrevi mandando notícias. No segundo exemplo, Mary escreveu uma carta para alguém, estava talvez muito ocupada para ir ao correio, e eu fui em lugar dela.

O verbo to go também freqüentemente ocorre associado às preposições to e for. Observe-se os dois grupos abaixo:

go to work
go to school
go to bed
go to church
go to town
go to court
go to pieces
go to hell
go to Porto Alegre
go to the bank, go to the office, etc.
go for a walkgo for a ridego for a drivego for a beergo for it

Uma das ocorrências mais elementares da preposição to é no uso do infinitivo em inglês. Isto normalmente ocorre na estrutura VERB + to + VERB. Exemplos:

I have to go.
I like to drink beer.
I’m not able to work.
He decided to leave.
You promised to help us.
He’s planning to study abroad.
I want to tell you something.
I hope to become fluent in English.
We expect to win the game.
Mesmo quando não introduzem objetos indiretos, a ocorrência das preposições to e for continua dependendo do verbo que acompanham ou da expressão idiomática em que ocorrem. Em muitos casos forcorresponde a por do português. Exemplos:

Nice to meet you.
Up to date
To my surprise, …
To the best of my knowledge, …
According to …
Apply to a university.
He reacted well to my comments.
I object to staying up late.
I’m accustomed to working hard.
I’m not used to working on Sundays.
It’s very sensitive to cold weather.
To (for) me, it sounds good.
It’s interesting to me.
She was invited to a party.
I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
It’s a hundred miles from here to Porto Alegre.
They raised his salary to $1,000.
Don’t jump to conclusions.
For sure!
For God’s sake!
Good for you!
For example, …
For this reason …
For the first time …
For (to) me, it sounds good.
Apply for a job.
Any letters for me?
I feel sorry for them.
He left for home.
I have a question for you.
He works for a tobacco company.
I sold my house for 40 thousand dollars.
He charged 50 dollars for the translation.
I lived abroad for 7 years.
He’s very strong for an old man.
I’m looking for a job.
He received a grant for studying medicine.
I want eggs for breakfast.
I wrote a check for $100.

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