The key difference between to and for is that to indicates a movement of a person or a thing from one place to another or from one person to another while for indicates a purpose, an intended goal, object or recipient of a perception, desire, or activity.
Since these two words are two common prepositions in the English language, they have numerous meanings and usages. In addition to its roles as a preposition, for also sometimes functions as a conjunction. Likewise, To is also used as an infinitive marker and sometimes as an adverb.
What Does To Mean?
To is a preposition that is used with a word in the fourth case called as the dative case. Look at the usage of the preposition to in the following sentences:
He gave a book to his classmate.
Francis traveled to London from Paris.
In the first sentence, you can see that a book was given by somebody to his classmate, and in the second sentence, you can find that Francis moved from one place to another. To is used in the sense of movement in both sentences. That is to say, to indicates a movement of a person or a thing from one place to another or from one person to another. In the first example, the usage of to indicates the movement of the book from a person to his classmate. Similarly, the second example indicates the movement of Francis from Paris to London.
In addition, to is used as a function word to indicate many different meanings. Some of these include,
Direction – Ex: two miles to the west
Purpose, intention, tendency, result – Ex: drink to someone’s health, came to her aid
What Does For Mean?
The preposition for is also used in the dative case but with a slight difference. Moreover, the preposition for indicates the importance of a person or a thing for whom an action has been done as in the following sentences.
I purchased a book for my father.
He did everything for his elder brother.
In both of the above-mentioned sentences, you can understand the importance attached to the two persons, ‘father’ and ‘elder brother’ in the two sentences, respectively.
In addition, for has the following meanings:
Having the purpose of:
Parking is for customers only.
These flowers are not for sale.
Intended for/ intended to be given to:
There was a phone message for you.
I forgot to buy a present for her baby.
What is the Difference Between To and For in English Grammar?
To vs For
|To indicates a movement of a person or a thing from one place to another or from one person to another||For indicates a purpose, an intended goal, object or recipient of a perception, desire, or activity|
|Preposition, infinitive marker, and adverb||Preposition and conjunction|
Summary – To vs For
Both the above-discussed prepositions are used in the dative case. However, there is a difference between to and for in their meaning and usage.
1. “To My Valentine.” By Unknown – Missouri History MuseumURL: (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “For Sale by Owner Sign” By Vectorink – for sale by owner sign, Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia