How to Use TO & FOR ⚡️English Prepositions | Common Grammar Mistakes


Well hey there! I'm Emma from mmmEnglish!

Welcome to my channel!

Notice that I said "Welcome to my channel"?

Not "Welcome for my channel"

You're probably here for learning English, right?

To learn 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!

Can't it?

I'm sure that you've been confused by these words

at some point.

So in this lesson,

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.

For example,

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

in context with other words.

So we won't focus too much on each individual

preposition in this lesson.

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.

Lots of other prepositions.

But back to these two prepositions

we're talking about today.

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

they'll still understand you.

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

with what's happening.

Okay, let's start!

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

physical movement and action.

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,

you should also use 'to',

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'

From this time to that time.

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 it, right?

You prefer one thing to the other.

I like chocolate ice cream more than vanilla.

It's way better obviously!

And I would rather have chocolate ice cream.

Not me! I love coffee!

Okay, what about you now? I want you to

tell me about some of your preferences

in the comments below.

So make sure you're comparing two things

and that you're using the preposition 'to'.

I prefer summer to winter, for example.

Add it to the comments.

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.

during the high season.

Okay I want to check you've been paying attention.

Okay? Time for a quick quiz.

What are the four different situations where

we commonly see the preposition 'to' being used?

The four situations that I just talked about.

Write them in the comments.

Quickly! You've got ten seconds!

Direction or destination.


The time between two points.


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.

So we can use 'for'.

For example, one of the benefits of eating ginger

is that it helps your immune system.


Right? That's a benefit.

We also use 'for' to talk about time.

We use it when we're doing something over a

period of time.

So when something has happened for a number of

hours, days, weeks, months, years..

you get the idea, right?

We do something for a duration,

a period of time.

Wait a second.

Notice how all of those examples are using

the perfect tense?

'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'

right here.

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

or do something nice,

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?

What's this thing's purpose?

What's its function?

What's it used for?

Well it's used for drinking and filling up with water.

Remember that we use 'for' when we're talking about

a function or a use.

We use the form 'for' plus verb -ing

It's used for drinking.

It's used for taking.

It's used for driving.

So notice how the verb -ing form

is always following 'for'.

Okay things are about to get a little trickier

during this lesson

but before we do, I want to check that you've been

paying attention again.

We're going to recap on the different uses of 'for'.

Can you remember them all?

Write them down in the comments quickly.

You've got ten seconds!

We talked about the benefits, the duration

or a period of time.

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.

So that is to talk about why

someone is doing something,

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!

Let's check it out.

'apply' is a verb

so we use 'to'.

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

you can use 'to' or 'for'.

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

destination or direction,

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

and delivered it to me.


So remember, 'for' is used to do something nice

for someone, right? Or to help someone with something.

My boss brought it to me

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 you've got to be careful!

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

want to for some reason

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

difficult way to learn them.

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

really useful for you.

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.

They appear often in that way

and so you'll often hear them together, they sound right.

They sound natural.

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 do you want some examples?

Let's talk about some now.

So with this verb, 'apologise',

both prepositions can be used

but with different results.

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 ask for something, right?

If you need it. Ask for help.

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?

'Wait for' with a noun.

It's taking ages!

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'

is followed by a verb.

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

by picking the ones that you

haven't heard very much or

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

down below and say hi.

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'

Okay? 'for' and 'since'.

I'll see you in the next lesson!