From English Grammar Today on Cambridge Dictionary

I need something for storing CDs.

From an ELL post

I need something to store CD's.

I adapted them a little bit and got

I need a bookshelf for storing books.

I need a bookshelf to store books.

Are both of them grammatically correct and common? Is there any difference in meaning between them?

As per English Grammar Today linked at the beginning, "for storing books" should be correct, as the function of a bookshelf is for storing books.

However, Ngram Viewer shows both are commonly used.

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Note: The ELL post I linked tries to distinguish them but gives "a confusing explanation because the distinction itself is confusing".

1 Answer 1


Both of them are common, but remember, there is a difference; to do specifies the purpose of an action, while for doing specifies the purpose and use of a thing (bookshelf in this case). Therefore, it is correct to use for storing since it defines the actual use of a bookshelf which is storing books. Consider the following example:

He took his phone (in order) to call John.

Not “for calling” because “to” here specifies the purpose of an action.


A phone is (used) for calling

Not “to call” because “for” here specifies the use of a phone.

  • Excellent differentiation between to do and for doing usages. Can you please suggest some link, book or study material elaborating this topic a little more?
    – user343802
    Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 6:34

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