Posted by: Idioma Extra | May 4, 2011

Thursday Tidbit

 To or for

To and for have many uses in the English language. However, one context in which they are often confused is when they are followed by a person (name, pronoun, etc.). For example:

 I brought the book for her.

I brought the book to her.

Both are correct; however each sentence has a slightly different meaning. Let’s look at the first one:

I brought the book for her.

In this sentence, the idea is that her is the reason that I brought the book. However, I may or may have not actually given it to her. Therefore, for is used when describing the reason or purpose of an action. Here are some other examples:

I gave the speech for him. (He couldn’t give the speech, so I had to speak in place of him)

They delivered the project for us. (We couldn’t deliver it, so they delivered it for us)

We bought the gift for Steve. (Steve is the reason why we bought the gift)

We sent the package for Mary. (Mary couldn’t do it, so we did it in place of her)

I brought the book to her.

In this sentence, her is the direct receiver of the thing. Therefore, to, in this context, is used when something is passed directly to a person. Here are some the same examples using to:

I gave the speech to him. (He was the recipient of the speech)

They delivered the project to us. (We received the project)

We bought the gift to Steve. (Steve received the gift)

We sent the package to Mary. (Mary received the package)

Check Yourself

Look at the following sentences and decide whether to or for is correct. In some cases, both may be possible.

1. I bought some interesting souvenirs (for / to) my father.

2. I have taught English (for / to) students for many years.

3. I cleaned the apartment (for / to) my roommate because he was on vacation.

4. I brought some interesting pictures (for / to) my class.

5. We rented a car (for / to) my mother who was visiting.

6. We needed to explain the situation (for / to) the boss.

7. We ran very fast (for / to) the store.

8. I paid the bill (for / to) her.

9. We rented the apartment (for / to) some university students.

10. I went to the meeting (for / to) my co-worker because he was sick.

Answers to last week’s Check Yourself.

1. The students were (very / too) nervous about the test, but they were prepared.

2. This computer is (very / too) slow. I won’t finish my work on time.

3. The barber cut my hair (very / too) short. I don’t like it.

4. They waited (very / too) long to finish the homework. The teacher won’t accept it anymore.

5. The soup is (very / too) hot, but you can still eat it.

6. My car is (very / too) old. However, there are some people interested in buying it.

7. I am (very / too) tired. I don’t think I’m going to work today.

8. The car is (very / too) expensive. I don’t have enough money to buy it.

9. The speech was (very / too) long, but it was interesting.

10. The house is (very / too) old. Not many people are interested in buying it.



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