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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > Difference between TO+infinitive and FOR+ gerund    

Difference between TO+infinitive and FOR+ gerund


Difference between TO+infinitive and FOR+ gerund
Difference between TO+infinitive and FOR+ gerund
I īve been teaching English for a while and I came across this trouble many times, and I do not know how to explain it! the question is when we use TO (in order to) + an infinitive or the FOR+ gerund form. For instance:
I īm studying English to improve my level
I īm studying English for improving my level
I prefer the first one, but my students ask me why and I do not know if the second one possible. And does it happen with all verbs?
Thanks a lot for your help!!!

25 Apr 2012      


I always explain to the students that "to" infinitive is for general use, that is:
"I study hard to pass the exam",
while "for"+ ī-ing is for a special case, that is:
"have you got a knife for cutting the cake, please"?
however, we can say: A knife is used to cut.
I hope you understand what I mean.
Anyway, in your example, "for improving my level" is something specific, but as you know, "to" infinitive is also used as an objective, that is: my objective is to improve my level. In this case, for me, this would be the correct one.

25 Apr 2012     


I have the same doubt of your students; the most of time I use to+infinitive, but I īm sure I īm wrong...
I found these sites but I think they īre not the exact explanation you need...


25 Apr 2012     


Hope it helps:

  To describe the purpose of something, use for + gerund:

    What is a hair dryer for?

    A hair dryer is for drying hair.

  To describe the purpose of someone, use an infinitive.

    What do you use a hair dryer for?

    I use a hair dryer to dry my hair.

Full explanation here

Ana Isabel

25 Apr 2012     


In native speech these are often used interchangeably with no real difference in meaning - I also have difficulty in explaining the difference because we often know what īsoundsī right and what doesnīt.  As part of functional grammar I teach both ways of using it by showing both the gerund and infinitive form and point out where there is not possible.
Iīm studying English to improve my level = correct
Iīm studying English for improving my level = īdoes not sound right ī (as a NS I would not say this)
Swan īs Practical English Usage 207.2 states
Using for to express purpose (what it is used for), especially when the thing is the subject but when the clause has a person as a subject then the infinitive is used to express purpose
e.g. An altimeter is used for measuring height above sea level / We use altimeters to measure height above sea level
P.S. Anaisabel - I think your link is broken 

25 Apr 2012     


Thanks a lot for your quick answers!
Jayho you īre right! Today I looked it on Swan īs book and I found it. Perfect!
I īm not native but sometimes I do not know as well the explanation for everything. Thanks again for your help!

26 Apr 2012