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  • I do not have much time to myself.
  • I do not have much time for myself.

Do these sentences have different meanings because of the prepositions TO and FOR? If there is, then what?

Thank you for the answers in advance. :)

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    Having lived through the decade, I can attest that Ngram is correct when it shows the ascendancy of "for myself" in the 1970s. The "pamper yourself" ethos began to take hold at that time in the "consumer culture". books.google.com/ngrams/… – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 18 '17 at 12:30
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From the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English: "to myself" means "to not have to share something with anyone else".

The phrase "for myself" is not separately defined in the dictionary. But in the American Heritage dictionary "for" is defined as "Used to indicate the object, aim or purpose of an action or an activity".

Therefore:

"Time for myself" means I am using that time to benefit myself.

"Time to myself" means that I am alone during that time. I may or may not be doing something "for myself" during that time.

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    This is an example of an answer that provides a thorough and objective explanation with authoritative sourcing. (It is not simply a "from my experience" type of answer.) – Jim Jan 19 '17 at 0:43
  • I can always look words and expressions up in the dictionary. But, other than learning grammar, I also want to learn them based on how native English speakers use them. :P – Marah Jan 19 '17 at 15:09
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    That's the job of people who write dictionaries -- researching how native speakers use words and documenting that use. Their opinion will probably always be better than that of a few random people who show up on online forums. – John Pankowicz Jan 20 '17 at 17:13
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They way I understand it, the sentences are fairly similar, but with slight differences in the way that the solitary time might have been used...

I do not have much time to myself. -- I do not have much time on my own, not having to do things for other people.

I do not have much time for myself. -- I do not have much time on my own, where I am free to do things for myself.

I do not have much time by myself. -- I do not have much time on my own, with no implication of things to do for myself or for anybody else.

7

"I do not have much time to myself." = I am not alone much

"I do not have much time for myself." = I do not have much time that I can devote to myself

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    This captures the distinction as I've heard the phrases used in the US better than Warren's. "time to myself" doesn't imply anything about what you are doing. You could be doing things for other people. The point is you're doing it with no one else around. On the other hand "time for myself" means you're doing thing for you, but doesn't imply anything about who else is around. I would add that "time to myself" implies that the speaker would like to be alone for a while. – weissj Jan 18 '17 at 17:22
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Just an add: I'd be of the opinion and understanding that you could possibly be with others during time that you have for yourself (this would be to distinguish from time you otherwise obligatorily spend on life's responsibilities). However, time to oneself denotes to me a distance from other people, similar to the brooding quality noted by Teacher KSHuang.

This may easily, however, be idiosyncratic of my dialect.

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