The Americans Decided. Now you decide: TO or FOR?

It's very easy to confuse TO and FOR

Read this explanation in Portuguese from the site English Made In Brazil:

"To" e "for" comparados a "para" >>

Now, see these examples of to and for to express purpose and do the simple online test.

for + noun or to + infinitive

To talk about the purpose of an action, we can use for + noun or to + infinitive:

  • I'm going to the pub for a drink.
  • I'm going to the pub to have a drink.
  • I went to London for an interview.
  • I went to London to do an interview.


for + -ing

To talk about the purpose of something, we use for + -ing:
  • These double-strength paracetamols are good for reducing headaches.
  • Are they suitable for backache, too?
  • What are these two knives used for?
  • This one is for bread and that one is for meat.

Note that What…for? can be used in questions to talk about the purpose of both actions and things: 
  • You hit me! What did you do that for?
  • What are these two buttons for?
  • The blue one is for gaining access to the main menu and the green one is for quitting teletext.


Giving reasons and explaining behaviour

Note that the same constructions, for + noun and for + -ing, are used with thank, apologise and be / feel sorry. With be / feel sorry a to + infinitive structure is also possible. Compare the following:
  • Thanks for the lift. Thank you for driving me home.
  • He should apologise for shouting at the referee.
  • I’m sorry to have taken so long with this report.
  • I’m sorry for taking so long with this report.
  • I feel sorry for the cleaners.
  • I feel sorry for them too. They’ve got the thankless task of cleaning up all this mess.  
Note also the way in which the for + -ing construction is used to explain the reasons for the following actions:
  • He was rewarded for handing in the purse.
  • He was criticised for not coming forward as a witness to the accident.
  • He was fined heavily for speeding on the motorway.
  • He was sent to prison for falsifying the accounts.


In order (not) to / so as (not) to + infinitive

Note that to + infinitive is one of the most common ways of expressing purpose. When we want to be explicit or sound more formal we can also use in order to or so as to. This structures are especially common before negative infinitives, in order not to and so as not to:
  • To get a better job I decided to take a computer course.
  • In order to get a better job I decided to take a computer course.
  • I left home early in order not to be late for the appointment.
  • I left the house early so as not to be late for the job interview.