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English Grammar  

FOR vs TO for purpose or reason

How and when to use 'for' and 'to' for purpose or reason

It is sometimes not clear for learners what structure to use to talk about the use of an object as opposed to the reason for using it .

  • Use or function of things/objects
    To explain the function of an object, what it is used for, we use for followed by
    a noun or a verb in the -ing form.
    • What is this sponge for? (= What is its purpose or function?)
      It is for cleaning the sink.
    • What's this barrier for? (= What do you use it for?)
      It's for the dog.
      It's for keeping in the dog.
    • What's this remote control for? (= What is its function?)
      It's for the gates. It's for opening and closing the gates.
    • What's this knife for? (= What do you use it for?)
      It's for opening oysters.
    • What's the new suit for? (= What are you going to wear it for?)
      It's for my interview. I want to make a good impression!
    • What's that knob for?
      It's for turning on the radiator.

  • Reason for doing something:
    To explain why we do something, the reason for which it is done, we use the infinitive (example: to do).
    • What do you use this sponge for? (=  Why do you use it?)
      I use it to clean the sink.
    • Why did you turn on the radio? (= What did you turn on the radio for?)
      I turned on the radio to listen to the news.
    • Why are you running?
      I'm running to catch the bus.
    • Why are you calling?
      I'm calling to see if you arrived safely.
    • Why do you study every day?
      I study to improve my level of English.
    • Why are you studying so hard?
      I'm studying hard to become a doctor.
    • Why did you go to London?
      I went to London to visit Buckingham Palace.
    • Why are you moving to the city?
      I'm moving to find a better job.
      I'm moving to look for more opportunities.

  • FOR + Object + Infinitive structure:

    This structure is commonly used after adjectives which express feelings or opinions:
    "It's sometimes difficult for tourists to find accommodation."
    "The poem was too complicated for the child to learn."
    It can be used after a noun:
    "It's  an opportunity for her to further her career."
    It is also used after "it's time":
    "It's time for the children to go to bed."

    It's unusual for the boss to arrive late.
    It's easy for him to speak English.
    It's hard for me to believe that.
    We're anxious for our son to get a job.
    The food was too spicy for me to eat.
    The box is light enough for me to carry
    It was a safe place for us to camp.
    There was nowhere for the children to play.
    It's time for the meeting to start.
    It's time for the match to begin.

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