What is the difference between these two sentences:

  • What is there to do with my life to make it better?
  • What is there to do to my life to make it better?

More examples:

  • It's my life; I do with it whatever I want.
  • It's my life; I do to it whatever I want.
  • 2
    Interesting. The difference is subtle:"with" implies your life is part of yourself, while "to" implies it is an entity separate from yourself. Visually, with is a bidirectional arrow <--> and to is a unidirectional arrow --> . So it would be weird for you to talk about doing something to your own life. – Andrew Mar 23 '17 at 16:33
  • @Andrew What if there is need in changing it because there is hatred to it? – SovereignSun Mar 23 '17 at 16:39
  • 1
    Not necessarily "hatred" but certainly a "dissociation" from your life, yes. – Andrew Mar 23 '17 at 16:46

"With" is used to describe two things that exist or act together. "I wrote a letter with Bob." Bob and I worked together to write the letter.

"To" is used to describe one thing acting on another. "I sent a letter to Bob." I am the one doing the acting. Bob is just receiving that action. He may not do anything. He may not even take the letter out of his mailbox.

In your example, "I did X with my life" implies that "I" and "my life" are working together. "I did X to my life" implies that "I" am separate from "my life". I think "with" is the more common thing to say, as we normally think of "I" and "my life" as pretty closely tied together. I would only be likely to say "to" here if I wanted to paint a picture of myself as someone separate from my own life, like it is not me who is living my life but some external force.

  • So, whatever good I do I should do it with my life, whatever bad I do I should do it to my life (if I wanna ruin it for instance)? – SovereignSun Mar 24 '17 at 5:56
  • Possibly, but not necessarily. It just depends how you see the relationship between you and your life. – Jay Mar 24 '17 at 13:10

"Do with you life" uses "life" to refer to your long-term future experience while living--how you will spend your time, what goals you will pursue, etc. It's how you will use your life.

"Do to your life" would commonly be used in a very negative way (unless you explicitly qualify it as you did here), referring to some impending change to your existence. For example, taking an action that would destroy your future prospects (or in this case, open doors to better prospects). It's an act upon your life.

What is there to do with my life to make it better?

This would refer to major choices about actions or direction that would make your existence more meaningful or enjoyable; how to best use the time available to you during life.

What is there to do to my life to make it better?

This is a non-typical way to express it, but it would refer to taking a specific action now to radically change the trajectory your life is on and the potential opportunities that could be available to you.

Your second set of examples would be similar. "Do with it" refers to the manner and purpose of how you use your time. "Do to it" refers to your actions that change your opportunities.

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