Okay so let's start with verbs and to-infinitives. For example: This tool is used for opening ** or **This tool is used to open Which would be correct and why? I know that the to-infinitives are used to show the purpose of something and someone's opinion about something. But for is actually used for the same thing Isn't it? For example: I've got something for reading and I've got something to read I've been told that the first one sounds unnatural. But how do you determine this? I just can't understand it.

  • 1
    "This tool is used for opening" implies the purpose of the tool, while "This tool is used to open" implies an action actually taken.
    – user3169
    Feb 15, 2018 at 0:15

1 Answer 1


There are not general rules (or if there are, they are so weak as to be nearly useless).

Most of the time it is a matter of what kind of complement the particular head-word (verb, adjective, noun etc) requires, and I'm afraid that is simply a matter of learning.

So used can take either a to-infinitive clause or for followed by a noun phrase (which can be a gerund phrase).

Happy, on the other hand, can take a to-infinitive clause (I'm happy to try it), or about with a noun phrase (I'm happy about the result), but not for with a noun phrase (not *I'm happy for trying it) - except for the variant of a to-infinitive clause where the subject is expressed with for: I'm happy for him to try it.

Up is commonly used in speech to mean willing, ready, and can take for with a noun phrase, but not a to-infinitive clause: I'm up for leaving now, but not *I'm up to leave now.

  • What about when they are used with nouns? For example: "I am looking for toys to play with" and "I am looking for toys for playing" Are both correct here?
    – BoSsYyY
    Feb 14, 2018 at 12:26
  • "Toys for playing" sounds really odd. "Nouns for X-ing" usually means "nouns that are to be X-ed", so "clothes for washing" is natural, In appropriate context (eg we're moving house) "I'm looking for toys for packing" would not be odd.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 14, 2018 at 23:53
  • So If I tell somebody "Do you know resources for learning Spanish?" this literally means that the resources are to be learned?
    – BoSsYyY
    Feb 15, 2018 at 13:23
  • @BoSsYyY: No. Resources can take a for complement. So I was wrong in limiting my original statement to verbs and adjectives. I'll edit it.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 18, 2018 at 16:27

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