1. What is the total cost of attending the seminar?
  2. What is the total cost to attend the seminar?
  3. What is the total cost for attending the seminar?

Are all these sentences correct, and do they have the same meaning? If so then why does the first sentence have 'of', the second have 'to' and the third have 'for'?

What are the rules for using different prepositions in a sentence?


5 Answers 5


The only rule for the use of prepositions is that you have to learn them. The choice of preposition in any context has been established over time and according to popular usage.

In some contexts, you may have a choice of several prepositions.

While most people would say:

The cost/price of something....

Native speakers also use

The cost to do something


The cost for a service.

The choice generally depends on what you want to say but it's equally valid to speak of:

The cost of this service, the cost for this service, the cost to carry out this service.

In other contexts, only one or two prepositions may be admissible, especially when they form prepositional or (phrasal) verbs such as listen to or apologise for.

https://www.thefreedictionary.com/Prepositions-with-Verbs.htm https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/quick-grammar/verbs-prepositions

  • 1
    Thanks for the answer, I am missing rhythm in reading the sentense and hence facing problem in memorizing the sentense as there are different ways to write same sentense. I am habituated to use 'to' + infinite but when I see gerund, I feel like I miss something.. Are there any links to know what most people would say? Commented May 21, 2018 at 17:12
  • 1
    @user2225190 The best way to learn these things is to read and to listen to English rather than trying to memorise any rules. Commented May 21, 2018 at 17:12
  • I disagree that you have to learn them. To and For mean completely different things in these examples. The cost of learning English, the cost for learning English and The cost to learn English are three different meanings, though two can be similar.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 15:42

All three are valid and mean the same thing.

This shouldn't be shocking per se. There are often many ways to express the same idea.

Prepositions often have many different possible meanings so sometimes they overlap.

"Of" means "related to". It is a very general preposition and can be used in many contexts. In this case, the "cost of" something is the cost associated with that thing.

"For" means "in favor of", as in, "I am for having cake"; indicates a goal or destination, "We headed for Cleveland", "I always strive for excellence"; or, as here, it indicates an amount or distance, "We ran for five miles", or "The cost for this thing is $5."

Both "of" and "for" are rather vague and general. I just looked up dictionary definitions and each one has like 20 definitions. Realistically, you might have to just memorize where each is used until you get a "feel" for it.


We are not choosing different prepositions willy-nilly. Rather, the thing can be expressed in at least a couple of ways:

attending the seminar

attend the seminar

and we use of with the gerund, attending, since it is a nominal, and to with attend since it is the infinitive.

Why do we use of with nominals and to with the infinitive? The answer has to do with the meaning of of and to.


1) The cost of something = something's cost.

for example: the total cost of attending the seminar=

The seminar's total attendance cost Here "of" shows what the cost "belongs to".

2) The total cost to attend the seminar

to is used as a function word there: —used as a function word to indicate purpose, intention, tendency, result, or end came to our aid drink to his health

to as function word to indicate purpose etc.

3) The total cost for attending the seminar.

Essentially, 2) and 3) mean the same thing in this particular case though technically one can differentiate them with regard to meaning. The difference is explained below.

for preposition \ fər, (ˈ)fȯr , Southern also (ˈ)fär\ Definition of for (Entry 1 of 5) 1a —used as a function word to indicate purpose a grant for studying medicine

for as function word to indicate purpose

Please note that in terms of usage: for is followed by the ing form of the verb and to is followed by the infinitive. This is a general rule.

for and to can be used to mean different things as in the example in the sample sentence. Below is an example where they differ in meaning.

Difference between function words "to" and "for" preceding a verb.

  • The cost for cleaning the office [where cleaning is an activity]
  • The cost to clean the office [where clean merely defines the purpose]

Now, one can also apply this to the example:
- The total cost for attending the seminar [the activity of attending] VERSUS
- The total cost to attend the seminar [the purpose of the cost]

Please note: in the examples given, the prepositions are not related to the verb calling for them. Sometimes verbs do "take" this or that prepositions for a particular meaning and may even be a phrasal verb. But often also different prepositions are used for different grammatical purposes.


Number 3 sounds more like you were paid to attend the seminar.

Number 2 would be used more frequently than 1. but they have the same meaning.

  • 1
    I disagree with the context of your answer, but I downvoted because this answer is very low effort. Please try to answer the question completely and accurately. I also like to add examples and references (where appropriate) to illustrate each point.
    – Andrew
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 16:43
  • I just modified my question to add 'what is' Commented May 21, 2018 at 16:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .