Purpose with “FOR” or “TO”

For + verb-ing

Purpose with ‘for + verb-ing’ or ‘to + infinitive’

We use ‘for + verb-ing’ to talk about the function of an object. It’s used when we want to explain what something is generally used for or what its purpose is. We DON’T use ‘for + infinitive’.

  •   A camera is for taking photos. (NOT: for take photos.)
  •   The headphones are for listening to music.
  •   What’s this for? (= what does this do / what is the function or purpose of this object?)
  •   This knife is for chopping onions.

    When the subject of the sentence is a person, and we are talking about the function of an object, it’s also possible to use ‘to + infinitive’, as well as ‘for + verb-ing’.

  •   I use this box to store DVDs.
  •   I use this box for storing DVDs.

    To + infinitive

    When we want to talk about someone’s intention or goal, about why they are doing something, we need to use ‘to + infinitive’. In this case, the subject of the sentence is a person.

  •   I went to London to study English. (NOT: for studying / for study.)
  •   I’m going home to relax. (NOT: for relaxing / for relax.)
  •   She sat down to read.
  •   He went to the library to study.

    For + noun

We can also use ‘for’ with a noun (NOT with verb-ing) to talk about someone’s intentions or goals.

I went to the shop for milk.
I went to the shop to buy milk.
I went to the shop for buying milk. I went to the shop for buy milk.



In order to

We can use ‘in order to’ or ‘so as to’ instead of ‘to + infinitive’. This just makes it a bit clearer that we are talking about goals or intentions and it’s also a bit more formal. It doesn’t change the meaning.

  •   I went to London in order to study English.
  •   I went to London so as to study English.

    Verb patterns

    Some verbs (or adjectives or nouns) need ‘to + infinitive’ or ‘for + verb-ing’ as part of their patterns. This is different from the uses I’ve talked about above, because here we are not always talking about purpose. ‘To + infinitive’ and ‘for + verb-ing’ don’t have a special meaning when they are part of a verb pattern. It’s just that this construction always follows this verb or adjective. These are some examples, but there are many more.


Decide + to + infinitive: I’ve decided to go home.
Promise + to + infinitive: She promised to arrive early.
Ask someone + to + infinitive: John asked Lucy to pass the salt. Want + to + infinitive: I want to buy a new coat.

Be sorry + for + verb-ing / noun: I’m sorry for breaking your vase.
Apologise + for + verb-ing / noun: He apologised for forgetting about the meeting.
Thank someone + for + verb-ing / noun: Thank you for helping me.
Reward someone for + verb-ing / noun: The police rewarded him for finding the stolen car.

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