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It seems that British people say "I brought the book for her" and "I brought the book to her" interchangeably. British people might think the 2 sentences are almost the same except that "for her" emphasizes the purpose and "to her" emphasizes the action.

I am not sure American people say "I brought the book for her" because I don't see "for sb" in American dictionaries.

I say "I brought the book for her" is confusing because you did something for somebody when that person asks you to do so or we do it for that person's benefit.

For example, I cooked dinner for her.

So, now, "I brought the book for her" could mean "I brought the book to the man for her" which means she asked me to bring the book to another person.

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    Saying for her is roughly equivalent to saying for her sake, while to her is roughly equivalent to saying toward her (or in her direction). Oct 3, 2023 at 1:18
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    Please give us a scenario in which the phrase might be used. Without any context, both phrases are extremely ambiguous. Are you bringing the book across a small room, or across town? Are you talking to a group of people present in the same room as her, or to someone who is elsewhere? Are you pointing at her?
    – jpaugh
    Oct 3, 2023 at 3:37
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    BTW, as an American, I hear both phrases pretty commonly. Often, the "for her," phrase is loaded with additional meaning beyond mere transport of an item; however, "to her" can have additional meaning, too, just by changing the emphasis of a sentence ("I brought the book to her")
    – jpaugh
    Oct 3, 2023 at 3:42
  • In addition, "I brought it to her" implies completion. So if you were still on your way, or the book was lost, you could still say "brought for her", but not "brought to her" Oct 3, 2023 at 18:07
  • Can you cite any specific instances showing how It seems that British people say either phrase, please? Neither example is ungrammatical but equally, neither is idiomatic. Even 'I brought the book to her' is unlikely and 'I brought the book for her' is so unlikely, many native speakers would automatically assume there was a problem with it. Again, where does 'It seems that British people say (any such thing)… ' come from? Oct 3, 2023 at 23:08

2 Answers 2

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Yes, "for" can take multiple meaning which may not always be explicit from the context. In this sentence, it could feasibly mean "for the purpose of", or "in place of".

I brought the book for her [because I knew she'd like it]

I brought the book for her [on her behalf].

Usually the surrounding context will make it more clear, but the sentence by itself can be parsed multiple ways. Bringing a book for somebody and to somebody aren't strictly interchangeable, but can be close in meaning, as it would be somewhat odd to bring a book for someone (with them as the purpose) but not bring it to them. As the comments clarify, "bringing to" is the physical act of delivery, while "bringing for" more indicates the intent.

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    "I brought the book to her" would always mean "I carried it to where she was". Oct 2, 2023 at 16:26
  • An example of this distinction is more obvious with bought -- you may have bought a present for someone but not yet given it to them. This meaning is still applicable to brought (you have brought the present with you on a trip with the intent to give it to someone, but have not yet actually done so), but this is probably a more unusual phrasing.
    – Miral
    Oct 3, 2023 at 5:13
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Your two example sentences don't have the same meaning, so they are not used interchangeably, but they might both work in the same situation.

"I brought the book to her" describes a physical action very simply, and has no nuance beyond that.

"I brought the book for her" can have several different meanings, all with nuance:

I brought her the book as a gift.
I brought her the book as a favour or kind gesture to her.
I brought the book with the intention of giving it to her, but I haven't given it yet.
I brought the book (somewhere) for her benefit. (for example, to a book appraiser)

"I brought the book for her" means, "I did something for her, which was bringing the book." It doesn't necessarily mean she got the book. She might have given me the book to bring somewhere else.

So while both sentences could apply in a situation where I do her a favour by giving her a book, only the version with "for" indicates that it's a gift, so the two are not interchangeable.

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