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I know that we can say something is helpful to/for someone like in

“This information would be extremely helpful for/to teenagers.”

I wonder if it is okay to say something is helpful to/for something

For example, let’s say I am teaching someone a particular exercise; can I say either of these sentences to him to mean that that exercise is effective for his stomach:

This is a helpful exercise for your abdomen.

This is a helpful exercise to your abdomen.

Or let’s say I think a book is effective at improving kids’ imagination, can I say either of these:

“This book is helpful for kids’ imagination.”

“This book is helpful to kids’ imagination.”

I am asking this question because I can’t find the structure “helpful to something” in dictionaries and that structure sounds a little bit off to me - especially when I put “to” instead of “for” after “helpful.”

2 Answers 2

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The object of "helpful to" is the person who will find it helpful. From that person's perspective, it is helpful.

The object of "helpful for" is either the same as above, or the object or task that will receive a benefit.

So, we can say either it's helpful "to" or "for" students, but for your other two examples, where the object is not a person with a perspective, you can only use "for":

This is a helpful exercise for your abdomen.

This book is helpful for kids’ imagination.

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  • In the case of the exercises, "for" seems to be connecting "exercise" and "your abdomen", rather than "helpful" and "your abdomen". So both "helpful" and "for your abdomen" are modifying "exercise". As opposed to "This exercise is helpful for your abdomen," where it's clear that the help is for the abdomen, not in general.
    – Esther
    Oct 26, 2022 at 16:03
  • @Esther It could mean either "This is an exercise for your abdomen, and it is helpful" (could be helpful for something other than the abdomen) or "This is an exercise, and it is helpful for your abdomen". The natural reading of the sentence, however, is that the exercise is helpful for the abdomen, not that it's helpful for something unspecified.
    – gotube
    Oct 26, 2022 at 16:08
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using to or for in a sentence will be depending on the type of action conveyed by the sentence If you're recommending your book or exercise or it's preferably you use for

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  • -1 This answer would be improved if it explained why this is so, and gave examples. Oct 28, 2022 at 13:29

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