To/For, Part 2 (The Preposition, "TO") - Podcast Episode 16

Audio Transcript
Welcome to episode 16 of The English Sessions. To and For Part 2, (The Preposition, TO). I am your host and English teacher, Mike Butler. These podcasts can help you improve your English! Together, we will talk about grammar… pronunciation… structure... and have some fun too. Remember to visit my website, to contact me for private lessons, and for more content.

You can also read the transcript of this audio on the website, as you listen to this episode.

Listen for these words today:

Recipient - a ‘recipient’ is a person who receives something. The recipient is given information.

Identical - similar in every way. For example, I bought two candy bars. They were identical, until I ate half of one.

Finish line - the line you see at the end of a race


To attach - to fasten, connect, or join together. Teenagers are attached to their smart phones!

Tears - the liquid that comes out of our eyes when we are sad, or sometimes happy. For example, “she cried tears of joy, not tears of sadness”.

Before we begin, I want to remind everyone that the word ‘to’ is a preposition, but it also can be part of the infinitive form of a verb. For example, “to swim”, as in, “I like to swim”. That is not a preposition, it is what we call the ‘infinitive marker’. Yes, sometimes this does cause confusion because sometimes it is not clear whether it’s the preposition or the infinitive marker. Listen for an episode about that in the future. Today is just preposition talk. (I used ‘preposition’ as a noun modifier! Learn more here:

Last week I did an episode about the preposition ‘for’. Today I will do an episode about the preposition, ‘to’. This is not a complete list of ways to use this preposition, but you may find it to be very helpful. Last week, I told you to pause the episode after my examples and repeat my sentences. I encourage you to do the same this week. You need to feel comfortable saying these prepositions in these sentences.

Last week, we also talked about how sometimes ‘to’ and ‘for’ can have a similar meaning, and sometimes both can be used as the preposition in a sentence. For example, perhaps you didn’t understand something, but then a great teacher explains it in a clear way. You can say, “It is clear to me now”, or you can say, “It is clear for me now’. I’ve heard both. You can also say that the teacher explained it to you, or the teacher explained it for you. Both are common, and both are similar in meaning, but not identical. The teacher explained it in order to benefit the student (FOR), and the student was also the recipient of this information (TO).

Last week I recorded an episode on the preposition ‘for’, and this week, my students and I have been talking about it. Let’s look at some sentences from my students.

I have one student who loves to travel. He said, “I love to travel. I want to travel for France”. I said, “Wait a minute, you want to travel FOR France?”. We determined that he wants to travel TO France. He has never been to France, and he really wants to go to France. We can use the preposition ‘to’ when talking about “DESTINATION”. He wants to travel TO France. I want to go to the store; Mary wants to go to the park; My student wants to go to France. This is an example of when you CANNOT use ‘for’. ‘For’ does NOT have a similar meaning in this sentence. The preposition ‘for’ would change the meaning of this sentence. If my student travels FOR France, that would mean he is traveling to the benefit of or on behalf of France, in other words, like he is representing France. Many people travel for work, they want to benefit their company. They travel for their company, but they travel to a different city, for work.

My student from Brazil, Marriane, asked about the prepositions ‘to’ and ‘for’ this week. We talked about my example from last week, “I work for my boss”. I work for my boss; I work to the benefit of my boss. I work for my boss. She asked me, “Mike, can you say, “I work to my boss”?”. My answer is no. “TO” is just not used in this way. Thank you to my Brazilian students for giving me these examples to use in my episode today. I’m sure it helps out a lot of students, especially my Brazilian students, who often mix up ‘to’ and ‘for’.

So remember, sometimes it IS possible to use either ‘to’ or ‘for’ in your sentence, like “it is clear to me” and “it is clear for me”; sometimes you can COMPLETELY CHANGE the meaning, like “I want to travel to France” and “I want to travel for France”; and then sometimes only one is commonly used, and the other just sounds confusing, remember, I work FOR my boss, not ‘to’ my boss.

For this reason, it is very important that you feel comfortable with the common prepositions used in English. So let’s talk about ‘to’, finally!

Just like last week, I will give you 6 important ways to use the preposition ‘to’.

 #1 is one we already talked about. Destination. Or, in other words, indicating the direction of one thing to a different location. Repeat after me, “I will go to France next year”. “I will go to France next year”.

#2 is about an amount of time, if you have the start time and the stop time. For example, I worked for this company from 2005 to 2008. Look at all those prepositions. Repeat after me, “I worked for this company from 2005 to 2008.”

#3 ‘to’ can mean you are approaching or reaching, or very soon about to get to something. See, I told you prepositions are confusing when we try to define them. Here is an example, “the runner is very close to the finish line”. 

#4 ‘to’ can identify the person or thing that is affected by something else. Here is the example. The boy was unkind to his sister. Repeat after me (repeat).

#5 ‘to’ can indicate that two things are attached. For example, “I attached my license plate to my car”.

#6 ‘to’ can show how two or more things are related. For example, this is an introduction to prepositions. Repeat. This is an introduction. The introduction is related to prepositions.

Okay, we did it. Again, this is not a complete list. It is really hard to define prepositions. You need other prepositions to define a preposition! Remember what I said from last class, do NOT assume that you translated a preposition correction. Try to avoid bad habits. Look carefully at all of the prepositions I’m using. Do you use them in the same way?

We just talked a lot about the preposition ‘to’. We talked about how ‘to’ and ‘for’ CAN have similar meanings; we talked about how ‘to’ and ‘for’ can have very different meanings in the same sentence; and we also talked about how sometimes only one can be used, and the other would be confusing.

So, here is a little test. I am going to read two sentences. Do both have the same meaning? Do both have different meanings? OR Is one correct and one incorrect?

1. I wrote a letter to her
2. I wrote a letter for her

Did you decide? Same meaning? Different meanings? Only one correct? The answer is: They have different meanings.

1. “I wrote a letter to her”. Here is my story: I live in New York. My sister lives in California. I really miss her. I have a lot to tell her. So, I think I will write a letter to her. You can say, “I will write a letter to her”.

2. “I wrote a letter for her”. Here is my story: My sister and I live together. Yesterday, she broke her arm. She is now unable to write all of the important letters that she needs to write. So, I will write letters for her. She can’t write letters, so I will write letters for her.

Okay, here is another story using the preposition ‘to’ several times. I went to the park (use #1). I stayed there from 2pm to 4pm (use #2). I saw so many little animals. For me, a park is like an introduction to nature (#6). I saw a man who was close to tears (use #3)! The man had chained his bike to the bike rack (use #5). Someone had stolen his bike! The thief was very inconsiderate to the man, because now the man had to walk home… in the rain!

Send in your own stories to the podcast. Send me your sentences with the preposition ‘to’. I’d love to read them. How else can we use the preposition ‘to’? Are you confused about the preposition ‘to’ and the ‘to’ infinitive marker? Send an email to The English Sessions will start releasing an episode every Wednesday now. Bonus material can be found on our Patreon account. Become a member today for only $5USD per month. Bonus content will soon include episodes of Get the Word! With Mike and Alexandra released only to, or for, our Patreon supporters. Go to

-- JULIANNA - comment, episode 7, silent ‘h’ --

Any questions? Write to me at . Leave a message for me on the website, and I will play it on the podcast. Make sure to subscribe to this podcast so you won’t miss an episode. Visit for more content. Please rate and review The English Sessions on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Find us on social media. Twitter @theEsessions; Instagram @englishsessionswithmike; Search for The English Sessions on Facebook. Until next time, this is Mike signing off.


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