How to Use TO & FOR ⚡️English Prepositions | Common Grammar Mistakes
Well hey there! I'm Emma from mmmEnglish!
Notice that I said "Welcome to my channel"?
You're probably here for learning English, right?
Man, those little words 'to' and 'for', they're so tiny
but when they're used as prepositions in English
sentences, grammar can get quite confusing!
I'm sure that you've been confused by these words
I'll go over them in a little detail
so that you can feel more confident using them
while you write, while you speak in English.
Prepositions in general are pretty easy to confuse.
For some of you, part of the problem is that
with these prepositions, you're thinking about
the way that you use them in your own language
not how they're used in English and it can be different.
Spanish and Portuguese speakers often use
the preposition 'en'
where in English we use both 'on' and 'in'.
Two separate words with very different uses in English.
So part of the challenge when you're learning is
understanding how to use them separately in English
and what the difference is, when to use one or the other.
Some languages don't really rely on prepositions
much at all. I mean sometimes English prepositions
don't have a lot of logic to them. They don't always
make sense. And for all of these reasons,
English prepositions must be learned and practised
So we won't focus too much on each individual
We'll look at words that they're often used with.
And just before we get started, you might be interested
in some of the other lessons that I've made
about prepositions. My playlist's up there.
I've made lessons about in, on, at, by.
But back to these two prepositions
Sometimes, using the wrong preposition doesn't affect
the meaning of your sentence too much.
Native speakers will recognise the mistake,
but they probably won't correct you on it because
But with these two prepositions, they can often be used
in place of each other and sometimes,
the meaning completely changes.
So here's what I'm going to do in this lesson.
I'm going to talk about the uses of 'to'.
I'm going to talk about the uses of 'for'.
And then I'm going to talk about the times
when you could use either 'to' or 'for'.
And that's where things get a little confusing!
Make sure you stick around until the end of the lesson
because later on, I'm going to teach you some common
word collocations using 'to' and 'for'
so you can stop guessing which one you need to use
and just know which is the right one.
And before we get started, make sure you subscribe
to the channel just by clicking that red button
down there so that you can keep up-to-date
When should you use the preposition 'to'?
So, you can use 'to' when there is some kind of
movement from one place to another.
Now keep in mind, this doesn't only relate to
It could also relate to other types of movement.
We can use 'to' when there's some kind of transfer
happening or something is being moved
from one place to another - a destination.
Something is being moved to somewhere or something.
So there's movement, of course,
in the direction to work. The destination is work.
Now I'm going to give you a few other examples
and I want you to pay attention to the destination
or the direction being described in each one.
Now if you're talking about distance,
since distance is the length or the time
from one place to another - to a destination.
Now we also use 'to' when we're talking about
time and the amount of time between two points in time
Of course, we use it when telling the time, right?
When we're talking about one point in time
to another point in time, we can also use 'to'
So this is a period from this time to that time.
That's the direction, that's the movement.
Now if there are two things and you'd like
one of those things a little more than the other,
You prefer one thing to the other.
I like chocolate ice cream more than vanilla.
And I would rather have chocolate ice cream.
Okay, what about you now? I want you to
tell me about some of your preferences
So make sure you're comparing two things
and that you're using the preposition 'to'.
I prefer summer to winter, for example.
Now, we can also use 'to' to talk about the point
where something finishes or ends.
It's the limit that you can't go past.
So in this situation, talking about limits,
you may also hear the phrasal verb 'up to'
The water came up to my knees.
Okay I want to check you've been paying attention.
What are the four different situations where
we commonly see the preposition 'to' being used?
The four situations that I just talked about.
Quickly! You've got ten seconds!
And the limit or the endpoint of something.
Let's check out what 'for' is used for now.
So we can talk about benefits using 'for'.
The positive effects or results of something.
For example, one of the benefits of eating ginger
is that it helps your immune system.
We also use 'for' to talk about time.
We use it when we're doing something over a
So when something has happened for a number of
hours, days, weeks, months, years..
We do something for a duration,
Notice how all of those examples are using
'For' is often used when talking about time in this way.
You can actually check the lesson that I made about
the present perfect tense and using 'for' and 'since'
I'll link to it at the end of this lesson as well
so you can keep watching this one now.
If you do something to help someone out
then you are doing something for them.
You'll see from these examples that
this is an important one to know
so that you can ask someone for a favour.
"Can you please do something for me?"
This is a helpful phrase, right? A helpful one to know.
It's a really common expression.
Can you help me? Can you do something for me?
Well it's used for drinking and filling up with water.
Remember that we use 'for' when we're talking about
We use the form 'for' plus verb -ing
So notice how the verb -ing form
Okay things are about to get a little trickier
but before we do, I want to check that you've been
We're going to recap on the different uses of 'for'.
Write them down in the comments quickly.
We talked about the benefits, the duration
We talked about helping someone and we talked about
the function and the use of something, right?
So all of those situations were ones where you can use
'to' or 'for. It's not a complete list.
There are some other uses as well but they are
definitely the most common ones.
Now another very common use for these prepositions
is one where both of them can be used,
both 'to' and 'for' can be used
which is where things get a little trickier.
You can use both 'to' and 'for'
to talk about a reason or a motive.
for what reason are they doing it?
But in this case, they are not interchangeable.
You can't use either one in the same way
but luckily, luckily there are some simple rules
to remember that will help you to use them correctly.
Use 'to' when the motive or the reason is a verb
and use 'for' when the motive or a reason is a noun.
Make sure you write that down, that's a super tip!
Now 'work' here is a noun so we use 'for'.
So you've seen lots of common situations
where we can use 'to' and 'for'
but now let's look at a few examples where
Both of them can be used correctly
but the meaning of each sentence changes
so this is where you have to be a little careful, okay?
Okay now remember, 'to' is used to talk about
where there's movement involved.
So in this example, 'lunch' is coming to me.
I'm the destination for lunch.
My assistant physically carried the lunch
So remember, 'for' is used to do something nice
for someone, right? Or to help someone with something.
because he wanted to do something nice for me.
Both of those sentences are grammatically correct
but using 'for' or 'to' changes the meaning, right?
So 'to' helps us to understand the direction of the action,
the destination of my phone call.
I called and my mum received my phone call.
I'm doing her a favour now, aren't I? I'm helping her.
I'm making a call to someone else because
maybe my mum couldn't call them or maybe she didn't
so I called that person for her to help her, right?
Now there's a bunch of different situations
where you can use 'to' and 'for', but really,
trying to memorise all of those situations is a pretty
There are just too many and it becomes really difficult
and confusing to try and remember them all.
Now, back at the start of this lesson, I said that learning
to use prepositions in context is really important.
It's the best way to learn to use prepositions correctly
in English. Learning common collocations is going to be
Like I said, it's best to learn prepositions with the verb
or the noun that they're commonly used with.
Have you heard of collocations before?
It means when words are often together in a sentence.
and so you'll often hear them together, they sound right.
And if they're used incorrectly,
they kind of sound weird or wrong.
So memorising or becoming familiar with collocations
is a really good strategy to help you remember
which preposition is the right one to use.
So with this verb, 'apologise',
We can apologise for something, the action.
Or we can apologise to someone,
so that's the person receiving the apology.
Okay? So you're sorry for missing the meeting
but you need to apologise to your boss.
Your boss is the person that you need to apologise to.
So try to remember these collocations next time
you do something wrong, right?
When you've messed up and you've made a mistake.
Try testing them out. You apologise to someone
or you apologise for something.
Now we also travel to somewhere, right?
Okay we use 'travel to' but we also use 'travel for'
when we're talking about a purpose or even a time.
For the purpose of work, right?
You apply for something, right?
But we can also apply to a person, okay?
We use 'belong to' when we're talking about ownership
or being part of something, right?
Notice that we don't use 'belong for', right?
We also care for something or someone.
We prepare for something, right?
There's a lot of people coming around.
Now we use 'wait for' something or someone, right?
All right, we're waiting for something
but we can also wait to do something.
Okay we can wait to buy, you know. So 'wait to'
If you can learn and remember some of those
collocations that we just talked about,
they're really common. They occur all the time.
Well then you'll be so much closer to using
the prepositions 'to' and 'for' like a total pro!
Actually, why don't you give that a go right now?
Right now! Practice makes perfect, right?
So in the comments, pick a few of those common
collocations, the ones that we just talked about.
Maybe challenge yourself a little
you don't use very much yourself.
But write a few sentences in the comments below.
I'll be checking to see if you've got them right
and give you some feedback if you need it okay?
Thanks for joining me today! Make sure you subscribe
if you haven't already and send me a little message
If you want to keep practising though, of course,
you want to keep practising, right?
Check out this lesson here or this one
is the present perfect lesson that I mentioned earlier
where I talk a bit more about using 'for'
I'll see you in the next lesson!