To vs. For in English — What’s the Difference?

Apr 7, 2021 | Grammar, Prepositions

This lesson was originally published in May 2017. In April 2021 it was updated with new video content and a quiz.

My new English course is really important TO me or FOR me – which one is correct?

The prepositions to and for regularly cause stress and frustration for my students. Do you feel the same?

If so, this lesson will help.

Today’s lesson is focused on three situations when both TO or FOR can be used in a sentence. For example:

  • To vs. for to indicate the reason or intention for something
  • To vs. for to indicate the recipient of something
  • To vs. for when to indicate the importance of something

In this lesson, you’ll learn HOW and WHEN to correctly use the prepositions to and for in English. Plus, at the end, I have a short quiz for you.

How and When to Use the Prepositions To vs. For in English



Situation 1: To vs. For to Indicate Reasons or Intentions

Review these examples sentences and note the structural patterns of the sentences:

  • I went to Spain FOR a wedding.
  • I went to Spain TO see my best friend.
  • I stopped by the grocery store FOR some coffee.
  • I stopped by the grocery store TO buy some coffee.

As you can see in these sentences, we use the following structures:

to + base verb + noun

for + noun


Situation 2: To vs. For to Indicate Recipient

In both sentences below, to and for indicate who the recipient is:

  • Yesterday I bought a birthday card FOR my sister.
  • Yesterday I bought a birthday card to send TO my sister.

When a verb — like send — indicates a transfer, exchange, or movement from Point A to Point B, we use the preposition ‘to.’

Here are some common examples:

  • To GIVE something TO someone
  • To SELL something TO someone
  • To SEND something TO someone
  • To MAIL something TO someone


Situation 3: Important TO me vs. FOR me

When highlighting the importance of something, both to or for could be used. But there’s a slight difference in meaning or focus:

  • Important to me = indicates personal or sentimental value; something precious to you
  • Important for me = indicates or focuses on the benefit of something.

Here are two examples:

  • My grandmother gave me this vase. Although it’s not expensive, it’s very important to me.
  • The interview I have next week is important for me; it could open some new career opportunities.


Quiz: Prepositions To vs. For in English

Get answers to the quiz below.

1. After a lot of practice and preparation, she feels ready_____ give her presentation. 

2. After a lot of practice and preparation, she feels ready_____ her presentation. 

3. I can’t forget to order flowers _____ my friend’s birthday.

4. One of my students told me that the opportunity to get practice and feedback on job interview questions was important ____ her confidence.

5. When you’re finished with that draft, will you send it ____ me by email?

How did you do with the quiz? 

Here are the answers:

1. to

2. for

3. for

4. for

5. to

When you complete this lesson, I’d love to hear what was most helpful to you. You can share your comments, questions, and more in the comments section below. Have a fantastic Wednesday!


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