TO vs. FOR (a very simple explanation)

Reply Wed 9 Oct, 2002 09:31 pm
This is an explanation designed for Brazilian students.

TO is used with verbs as you all know (e.g. the verb "to be").

It is also used in cases where a "transfer" happens.


I will give this book to you. (from me to you)
I will go to work. (from home to work)
I will talk to her. (information goes from me to her)

FOR is used in the following situations:

for the benefit of

e.g. I will do that for you.


e.g. This brush is for painting.

Those aren't rules written in stone, they are just general guidelines to help ESL students (especially Portuguese speakers) better grasp this concept.

Here is an example with both:

Give this book to him but it is for his father.


I will speak to her for you.

Brazilians often ask me why this is so difficult foir them. The answer: Because both to and for are the same word in Portuguese: para

If you have any doubts ask them here. An English teacher will be happy to answer them.
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Reply Thu 10 Oct, 2002 05:20 pm
I like this one,

I've been using it with my students. It's easier to use this explanation if you have students who speak


P.S. This is always the first thing Rob teaches new ESL teachers.
Merry Andrew
Reply Thu 31 Oct, 2002 09:11 pm
It's not just Portuguese-speakers. Spanish-speakers have the same problem.
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Reply Wed 6 Nov, 2002 05:56 pm
c.i. : do you speak other languages?
If so, Is there such a large difference between the two? or with the one does there come the conherence for the other?
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Reply Wed 6 Nov, 2002 07:25 pm

If I translate your examples into Spanish, "para" would be used only in the "purpose-for" situation; "por" would be used in the "for your benefit-for" situation, while the "transfer" examples would use "a", "con" or no preposition at all.

Te daré este libro. (no preposition)
Iré a trabajar.
Hablaré con ella
Lo haré por tí.
Este cepillo es para pintar.
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Craven de Kere
Reply Wed 6 Nov, 2002 07:33 pm
Em Português tambem usa-se "com" para o exemplo de conversar.

"Converse com ela um pouco"

Em certas situacões (não revelante a conversa entre duas pessoas) "por" tambem se-usa se não me engano.

Mas "para" serve em muitas instancias.

Em Espanhol tambem não se usa "para" para a situacão de destino de um objeto?
"Esto es para usted"
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Reply Wed 6 Nov, 2002 07:40 pm
That's why your explanation was good, regardless of the prepositions we use in our mother tongue.

En español:

Va a tí: it goes in your direction.
Va por tí: it goes for your sake or in your honor.
Va para tí: it goes to you: you are the recipient.
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Craven de Kere
Reply Wed 6 Nov, 2002 07:44 pm
So in Spanish you don't use:

Vai para lá.

That's something I get confused about, I speak Portuñhol now.
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Reply Wed 6 Nov, 2002 07:52 pm
We have both possibilities:

Voy allá.
Voy para allá.

But, say it's your house, the restaurant, to vote, then it's:

Voy a tu casa.
Voy al restaurante.
Voy a votar.

[BTW, Italian use of prepositions is even harder; I was taught it usually depends if the place you're going to is public or not].
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Merry Andrew
Reply Wed 6 Nov, 2002 10:23 pm
Thanks, Craven and fbaezer. If I'm not careful, I might learn [email protected]
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Reply Thu 7 Nov, 2002 06:35 am
Merry Andrew wrote:
Thanks, Craven and fbaezer. If I'm not careful, I might learn [email protected]

Well we couldn't have that now could we?(hahahahah)
Laughing Razz Laughing
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Merry Andrew
Reply Thu 7 Nov, 2002 08:12 pm
I'll try to be careful, Douglas. My problem is, I can get by in spoken Spanish when I have to, but I have never formally studied the language so my grammar is terrible (non-existent might be closer) and my vocabulary extremely limited. But, as language per se (any language) is a subject close to my heart, I'm always eager to learn.
Reply Sat 30 Nov, 2002 05:13 pm
How many languages do you speak
craven, fbaezer and merry andrew??
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Reply Mon 24 Mar, 2003 05:08 am
I took Spanish and French in college and learned absolutely nothing. It has always been my contention that the approach is backwards. In English, children learn to converse first, then learn the grammar. That's the way that it should be taught in the classroom.

Spanish and Portugese are so very beautiful to the ear as most of the Romance languages are.

Babs, I speak three languages: Virginiaese, Mountainese, and English. Laughing
Reply Sun 4 Apr, 2004 12:40 am
Many thanks
It is nice explanation ......
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Merry Andrew
Reply Sun 4 Apr, 2004 04:33 pm
Hi, Babs. Sorry not to have answered your question earlier, but I didn't see it. I speak Latvian as well as I speak English. Can get by in French, German and Spanish. Not really fluent in any of them. Know a few words of Japanese, a few words of Arabic. Oh, and some Yiddish, which comes naturally if you know German.
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Reply Sun 8 Aug, 2004 12:25 pm
Which is correct?

What makes you perfect IS your imperfections


What makes you perfect ARE your imperfections?
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Reply Sun 8 Aug, 2004 12:42 pm
meehnU, Welcome to the archives and to A2K.

Just transform the sentence so that it reads:

Your imperfections ARE what make you perfect.

That way, you have the plural verb to go with the plural noun.

Hope this helps.
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Merry Andrew
Reply Thu 26 Aug, 2004 11:32 pm
Right on, Letty.
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Reply Sat 14 Jan, 2012 06:01 pm
@Craven de Kere,
i'm portuguese too, and it is very difficult to me distinguish it!
Your explanation is brilliant!
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