What’s the Difference? Expressing Purpose with “TO” and “FOR”


When you ask people a why question, most often they answer with “because.”

For example: “Why do you train so hard?”  “I do it because I want to be an Olympic athlete some day.”

However, we can also answer this question with the adverbials to + simple form or for + noun.

“Why do you exercise so much?”  “I do it to prepare myself for the Olympics.  I do it for my future.”


“Why do some people wear makeup?”

“They do it to feel more beautiful.  They do it for their self-confidence.”

“Why don’t you wear it?”

“I don’t wear it to save time and money.  I don’t wear it for convenience.”

We can easily make the to phrase negative by putting the word “so as not” in front of it.

“Why do you wear makeup?”

“I wear it so as not to show my wrinkles or the dark circles under my eyes.”

Let’s practice all of these now:

engagement-1718244_960_720 Why do you always ride your bike instead of driving?

I ride it to stay fit.  I ride it for exercise.  I ride it so as not to pollute.

I ride it to spend time outside.  I ride it for the scenery.  I ride it so as not to get stuck in traffic.

girl-kid-child-point-sticky-note-smile-study-remember-forget-point-english-esl-action  Now you try!  (Possible answers below)

Why do some people write themselves notes?

They do it to ___________________________

They do it for _______________________

They do it so as not to ___________________

(remember important information / a reminder / forget important information)


Why do some people wear suits?

They do it to ___________________________

They do it for _______________________

They do it so as not to ___________________

(look professional / their jobs / seem unprofessional)