I have checked the usage of "to" in OALD. In the 18th definition, OALD gives an example:

It sounded like crying to me.

Can I use "for" instead of "to" here?

It sounded like crying for me.

If I can, do these two examples have any difference in meaning?

Can you please give me more examples? I'd like to get familiar with this usage.

4 Answers 4


If you use for in this expression it means something different.

"It sounded like X to me" means, roughly, that I interpreted what I was hearing it as X or I thought it sounded similar to X.

That statement sounds like a cover-up to me.
That bird-call sounds like a crow to me.

"It sounded like X for me" means (still roughly) that I expected what I was hearing to have X personal effect on me. In this particular case it would mean "I expected it to cause me to weep."

That policy sounds like higher taxes for me.
That demand from the client sounds like two or three weeks of round-the-clock work for us.

  • Can I say "It is just an ordinary meeting to me." Would it differ from "It is just an ordinary meeting for me."? Is "To" in this usage common in everyday use? And "To" in this usage must be used with a sense verb like "sound" or "look" etc?
    – Kinzle B
    Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 13:46
  • A native English speaker would never use the expression with "for" in it. They would be likely to say "it sounded like I would be crying" or "it sounded like they were crying for me", depending on the intent. Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 22:32
  • @AlastairMaw That's pitching it a bit strong. Try the first post here, or "looks like tears for me" here, which both seem perfectly ordinary colloquial English to me. But perhaps it's an Americanism. Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 23:10
  • As I revisited your answers I found I failed to understand many of your crucial points. :-) Perhaps it's just the way of learning. I think in this context the closest sense of "for" in OALD is "concerning someone or something". Do your agree? @StoneyB
    – Kinzle B
    Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 23:37
  • @KinzleB Yes, but that's so vague it doesn't help much. It sounds like X for me may means either (approximately) 1) "It appears that X is what will happen to me" or "It appears that X is what I will have" or "It appears that X is what I will have to deal with". Or 2) As in Alicja's answer, for me can be an adverbial modifying X, in which case the meaning will depend on X: to cry for someone may mean to weep on someone's behalf or to call out to summon someone. Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 23:48

Actually, both other answers missed some meanings...

It sounded like crying to me.

  • this does indeed mean something along the lines of, I thought it sounded like crying - though perhaps others may have thought differently. Similarly, you might say That apple looks rotten to me (= I think it's rotten), or It smells like roses to me (= I smelled it, and I think its smell is similar to that of roses). Note that here "to me" refers to "sounded"...
  • but in some cases, "to me" might refer to "crying", in which case the meaning is different; a similar sentence that would show this meaning would be "It sounded like crying to me for help", where something is crying for help, but it's crying to me for that help.

To see how these two meanings differ, let's look at one other example:

It sounded like singing to Suzie.

  • it could be that Suzie thinks it sounds like singing (meaning 1)...
  • ...or that someone is singing a song to Suzie, ie. a guy might serenading her at her window, singing the song "Susanna" (meaning 2)...

As for your other sentence:

It sounded like crying for me.

...it could have several possible meanings:

  • It sounded like it would make cry, or it would result in me crying at some point. (as StoneyB suggested)
  • It sounded like they were crying because something bad had happened to me. (as dcaswell suggested)
  • It sounded like somebody was crying or otherwise asking for my attention, help, etc:
    • here this somebody could either be a baby (such as The baby was crying for me = The baby missed me and was crying because it wanted me to come and hug him)...
    • ...or somebody in distress, who isn't necessarily crying in the sense of weeping (such as They didn't know what to do about the problem, and ended up crying for me to help them.).
  • 1
    Thx for making it complete!
    – Kinzle B
    Commented Mar 29, 2014 at 12:32

One minor thing in addition to the other answers: "to me" is an idiomatic phrase that means "as I see it", "in my opinion", or another such phrase. So, you can also say "To me, it sounded like crying" without changing the meaning. However, "crying to me" doesn't necessarily have this meaning:

He was crying to me about losing a dollar.
It sounded like someone was crying to me for help.

In these cases, "to me" is the indirect object of the intransitive verb "crying". Changing the word order would change the meaning: "It sounded to me like someone was crying for help" means that I think that someone was crying for help, not that I was the person someone was crying to.


It sounded like crying for me. means they were crying on your behalf. Maybe something bad happened to you and other people were crying about it.

It sounded like crying to me. means you heard sounds that you identified as crying.

  • Your explanation about "crying for me" is different from StoneyB's. I think your explanations can be complementary, right? so will a native speaker have a preference to either of the two explanations? @user814064
    – Kinzle B
    Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 14:14
  • It depends on the context. Their answers are perfect for the questions they quoted.
    – dcaswell
    Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 14:19

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