For and To. Learn how to use these English prepositions

The prepositions for and to can be confusing in English, especially if you speak a language like Spanish or Portuguese, where one preposition covers many of the uses of them both. Let us help! In this video we explain their key uses.

Hi! We’ve had a number requests for a lesson on these prepositions. They are tricky, especially for Spanish and Portuguese speakers. We can’t cover all the uses in this lesson. That would take too long. But we’re going to look at some important ones and fix some common mistakes. Are you ready?

Is that a present for someone?
No, I bought it for us.
What is it?
It’s a spiralizer.
A spiralizer?
Yes. It’s to cut up vegetables.
But I don’t like vegetables?
You’re going to love them. Let’s open it. Oh good. We’ve got some instructions. Let’s get it out. It’s a very useful kitchen gadget.
What’s this?
I think it’s a handle for turning the vegetables round. I don’t know what that is, but look, it has different blades.
Oh I see.
There are three blades here. What do you think that one’s for?
I don’t know but it looks…
It looks dangerous.
A little scary, yes.
What do you think that’s for?
I’ve no idea.
Well I think it’s to stick vegetables on.
Ah yes. We think we’ve figured it out. But before we start, this is for you.
What’s it for?
Put it on so as not to get your shirt dirty.
Hmmm.
It’s an apron.
So I’m going to cut the end of this zucchini.
Uhuh.
And now you can put it on there.
OK. I think you have to press hard to make it work. Erm. Shall we try?
Yes.
Is it working? Nothing’s happening.
You’re turning in the wrong direction. There we go.
Is it working?
Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Really?
Yeah. It’s like spaghetti.
Oh Jay!
Big spirals.
This is the spirals. Look! So that blade is to make spirals. We’ve got one more blade to try.
All right. I think we need a different vegetable.
We could try a potato.
Let’s try a potato.
OK.
Watch out.
Wow! What’s that?
Well it’s going to turn into a kind of French Fries. What do they call these?
Oh yes. Curly fries.
Right. There you go.
Oh fantastic!

Did you understand everything? Let’s check some of the words you heard. I bought a kitchen gadget. A gadget is a small useful tool or device that has a clever design. This one is called a spiralizer because it cuts things into spirals. It has a handle and some blades. The blades are flat pieces of sharp metal for cutting the vegetables. Now, can you remember the vegetables we cut?
There was a zucchini and a potato. Zucchini is an American word. In British English we call it a courgette. And one more word. What’s this? It’s an apron. We wear aprons in the kitchen to keep our clothes clean. Great. Now let’s look at the prepositions we used. Let’s start with ‘for’.

Is that a present for someone?
No, I bought it for us.

We use ‘for’ to say who something is intended for. I’m not going to give the spiralizer to someone else. It’s for us.

Before we start, this is for you.

‘This is for you.’ You can say this when you give someone something, especially something that’s helpful. We often use ‘for’ when we’re helping.

Oh, it’s… it’s quite hard.
Well let me do that for you.
OK.
Well let me do that for you.
OK.

So here’s a useful expression for when you’re offering help. And you can use ‘for’ when you’re asking for help too.

OK. Could you cut some for me?
Yes. I’m going to cut the end of this zucchini.
Could you cut some for me?

I could just say ‘Could you cut some?’ but notice I added ‘for me’. We often add ‘for me’ to requests like this. Try it and your English will probably sound more natural. Now what about ‘to’. We can use ‘to’ when we’re giving things as well, but the meaning is a little different.

Give the instructions to me. I’ll explain them to you.
Give the instructions to me. I’ll explain them to you.

‘To’ means towards or in the direction of in these examples. So ‘for’ was more about helping but ‘to’ was about the direction something goes. OK, let’s look at another way we use ‘for’.

What’s this?
I think it’s a handle for turning the vegetables round.

We use ‘for’ to explain the purpose of something. The purpose of the handle is turning the vegetables. The blades are for cutting the vegetables. The apron is for keeping Jay’s shirt clean. And when you want to know the purpose of something, ask ‘What’s it for?

This is for you.
What’s it for?
Put it on So as not to get your shirt dirty. Hmmm.
What do you think that’s for? I’ve no idea!

You can ask about the reason for an action in the same way.

What did you buy that for? I don’t like vegetables.

‘What did you buy that for?’ means ‘Why did you buy it?’ Explain your reasons.

What did you buy that for? I don’t like vegetables.
But vegetables are good for you.

Now here’s a thing. ‘For’ isn’t the only preposition we use to talk about purposes and reasons like this. What’s the other one? Yeah, it’s ‘to’.
What is it?

It’s a spiralizer. I bought it for cutting up vegetables.
A spiralizer?
Yes, it’s to cut up vegetables.

These sentences mean the same thing but notice the construction is different. After ‘for’ we use a gerund, an ‘-ing’ form that’s a noun. And after ‘to’ we use the infinitive form of the verb.

Use this one to cut potatoes and this one to cut courgettes or zucchinis.

You could also say ‘in order to’ here. The meaning is the same but ‘in order to’ is more formal. Here’s another example.

I need the instructions to know what to do. I need the instructions in order to know what to do.

These sentences mean the same thing. If you want to be explicit or extra clear, say ‘in order to’. But generally in spoken English we just say ‘to’.
Now are you ready for one more? ‘So as to’. It means the same as ‘to’ and ‘in order to’. So this sentence is possible as well. But normally we use ‘so as to’ in the negative. We say ‘so as not to’.

This is for you.
What’s it for?
Put it on so as not to get your shirt dirty. Hmmm.
Put it on so as not to get your shirt dirty. Hmmm.

Great! Let’s have a quiz and check what you remember. I’m going to show you a sentence and you need to choose the right ending. Are you ready? Only one ending is correct – which one? It’s the last one.
The first one is wrong. We don’t use ‘for’ and ‘to’ together. This is a very common mistake so make sure you don’t say that. And the second one is wrong because after ‘for’, we use a gerund.
OK, let’s have another sentence. Only one ending is correct. Which one is it?
Did you say the first one? I hope so. It’s correct. The others are both wrong. But, you could also say in order to cut big spirals and that would be correct too – just rather formal.
And that’s it. Now you know some important ways we use ‘for’ and ‘to’ and you also know about our spiralizer. What did you think of it? Do you think it’s a useful gadget or not? And tell us, what’s your favourite gadget? Perhaps it’s a kitchen gadget or maybe it’s another kind of tool or device. What do you use it for? Let us know in the comments.

So what have you done here?
This is your first batch of spiralized vegetables. You’re going to love it. It’s curly fries.
Curly fries. Let’s see what it tastes like.
Hmm. They’re probably not good for us.
They look a little overdone, you know.
Well, you don’t have to have them if you don’t want them.
These are VERY good. Good job! You guys should have some of these. Mmm. Mmm.

Unfortunately we can’t share curly fries, but something we can share is our lessons. You’ll find more than a hundred different video lessons at our Simple English Videos website, and here on our YouTube channel, so make sure you subscribe, and if you found this lesson useful, please share it. Also sign up for our newsletter so we can tell you about our live classes. I’ll put details in the description below. So until next week, bye now.

3 thoughts on “For and To. Learn how to use these English prepositions

  • January 19, 2018 at 8:20 pm
    Permalink

    how can i get a scholarship from this organisation ?

    Reply
  • January 19, 2018 at 8:23 pm
    Permalink

    i,m interested to this cours but how can i get a scholarship from your organisation?

    Reply
    • January 19, 2018 at 9:46 pm
      Permalink

      All our video lessons are free Bwazu. You don’t need a scholarship.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.