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How can we differentiate when to use “to” or “for” for example:

To me/for me, it’s important to know if we can make reservation at this hour.

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  • As a very general guide for me is more often on my behalf/for my benefit. To me more often refers to me as a recipient of something. But the answer will depend both on the expression and the context. In some contexts, either works: "It's important to me/for me to know" are both correct. Aug 28, 2020 at 9:11

2 Answers 2

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There is a clear difference between the two, but it is important to know that there are some contexts where either could work, and it is also fairly common for native speakers to occasionally mix them up as well.

Simply put, "to" indicates a direction, and "for" indicates purpose, although a look at some dictionary examples will show their meanings are more nuanced than that.

In your example you are trying to determine if you should say that something is important for you or important to you.

  • If something is important to you, it means that it is personally important. The importance is directed to you. For example, you might say your family are important to you.

  • If something is important for you, it means that it is beneficial, perhaps vital for you in some way. The thing has a purpose. For example, you might say that it is important for you to take a prescribed medication.

Your example should use "to", because the importance you place on this is entirely yours. Any purpose or benefit gained is not just directed at you, but at everybody, you are making a reservation for. It would be different if you said "it is important for us to make a reservation".

Another good example to consider might be using the word - "good". If you said a friend was good to you, that would mean they showed kindness toward you; but if you said a friend was good for you, that would mean that this friendship has a benefit to you.

An example where either word could work is when receiving mail - if you said: "this letter is for me" it would mean the letter was sent with the purpose of you receiving it. If you said: "this letter is to me" that idiomatically means it is addressed to you. The overall meaning is the same, but there is a subtle difference.

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With the preposition phrase at the beginning of the sentence, as in your examples, the meaning is the same: the phrase describes my attitude about knowing.

However, if it's not fronted, the words work differently.

It's important to me to know...
That still describes my attitude about knowing.
That sentence could be rearranged, "To know is important to me."

It's important for me to know...
That describes an importance wider than my own attitude. It is important for the situation that I know.
If you rearrange that sentence it would be "For me to know is important."

For example,

It's important for me to know what steps have been taken, so that there is no duplicated effort.

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