Always Be Good For Yourself and Be Good To Yourself – The Difference between To and For

Last time we covered the difference between the prepositions “of” and “to.” Now a variation.

The difference between “to” and “for” is that “for” is to be good to a person, an animal or a thing. When you use “for,” the action is especially for that person/animal/thing.

“To” is to give or transfer something to another person/animal/thing. The action is not especially for that person/animal/thing.

Have a look at these examples:

1)    I gave the book to Elsie.

I wrote this book for Elsie.


2)    Tim is talking to his brother.

Tim is playing a love song for his girlfriend. (also “to” can be used here, with a difference in meaning.)


3)    She’s adding stamps to her collection.

She’s collecting stamps for her collection.


In some cases, both to and for can be used.


1 The lecturer gives a lecture to/for his students.

The lecturer gives the lecture to his students, because he’s transferring knowledge to them.

But he also talks for the good of the students, so you can use “for” too.


2 I want you to listen well. I’m explaining this to/for you.

Explaining to you is the normal meaning of giving information.

Explaining for you means this information is especially for you.


To before an infinitive

Keep in mind that before an infinitive (the basic form of the verb) you can never put “for.” It always has to be “to.”

Example: Derek gave up his job to be with his twin babies.

“Be” is the infinitive, so before that you put “to.”



Fill in: to or for

In some cases, both are possible.

Do this exercise online by clicking on this link.


1 Gary is donating money _______ an orphanage.

2 Shari bought a silk tie _______ her husband.

3 Gangmei bought a frame ________ the picture.

4 We brought home-made cake and rice salad ________ the party.

5 Can I bring my dog ______ the party? – No, you can’t. This party is only _____ humans.

6 I need to talk ______ you urgently.

7 The singer was performing ______ a huge audience.

8 Do you have some money ______ me?
9 We need to get ______ the campsite before nightfall.

10 Inna and Ernesto like to read stories ______ their children.

11 This job will be excellent ______ my career.

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