Why do we say

It's detrimental to your health.


It's bad for your health

How does the preposition work here?

  • Thank you for correcting me. I'm wondering about the underlying logic after reading: "The Logic of English Prepositions: Intuitively Understand and Feel English like a Native Speaker" yet I still don't know how to apply it here. Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 15:25
  • 1
    To be bad for someone; to be detrimental to someone: you just have to memorize it. To be bad TO someone is to mistreat them.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 15:31
  • Yes, I did exactly that. Then I found this book, and the author claims that statement "you need to memorize it is a myth. That every preposition has his own logic and logic always apply. Yet, no matter how I try, I cannot apply logic here. Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 15:37

2 Answers 2


Detrimental as an adjective comes from a noun, the -al suffix can help you spot this. So to say something is detrimental means it causes a detriment, and we would normally say something causes a detriment to something else.

Bad is an adjective, and we generally understand it to describe an ongoing state not an event. The preposition is telling us what is in that state, so it's bad for your health.

I hope that helps.

  • Thank you! So if I correctly understand. To is a pointer to something, and for focus more on the journey than destination? Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 16:19
  • To can indicate direction, but often indicates action - action words (verbs) are normally referred to in their infinitive as to {do whatever} so where the adjective indicates an action there is a verb lurking in the background. Here detrimental has come from a noun, but it indactes that a detriment has been caused (the verb). I note in the book you cited it talks about the 'feel' of English which is right, we don't think about this stuff usually, it just seems to fit. Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 16:44

As a native speaker, I don't see any obvious logic here. If someone can formulate a rule or set of rules that explain all such choices, I have not seen it.

As Lambie says "to be bad to {someone}" means to mistreat or be hostile to that person, while "to be bad for {someone}" means to affect that person negatively, as a food or a situation.

It's detrimental to {something}.

is a very commo9n and natural expression, while

It's detrimental for {something}.

while not wrong nor significantly different in meaning is far less common. These patterns spread and become locked in by imitation, I think. "Detrimental" does suggest a decrease in something, and so is perhaps most naturally paired with "to" where it can indicate that decrease, so that might be a bit of logic. But if so, it is not one that native speakers think about routinely.

  • Hi David. Thank you. Yes, one person claims that there is logic indeed. Unfortunately, my level of English doesn't allow me to verify the truthfulness of this statement. If you're interested here is his channel when he talk about it youtube.com/… Also he wrote book: The Logic of English Prepositions: Intuitively Understand and Feel English like a Native Speaker Copyright © 2018 by J. Daniel Moore Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 16:20

You must log in to answer this question.

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