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I wrote the following sentence

We use a subset of XPath axes which are relevant for our purpose.

To check its validity I searched the phrase in google (I always do that trick)

  • "which are relevant for our purpose " : 62000 results
  • "which are relevant to our purpose " : 122000 results

Then I doubt which of the phrases is correct or if they mean differently?

When can "to" and "for" be used alternatively?

  • Google data probably is not helpful since this is likely to be context dependent. For example, "We also use a subset of XPath axes which are relevant for our purpose." vs. "We also use a subset of XPath axes which are relevant to what we are trying to accomplish". I don't have a grammar based answer for this, but I would say for in your example sounds best. – user3169 Jun 15 '15 at 21:04
  • You might look at "for our purposes". I have a feeling that the plural is more common in this phrase, but I'm not able to research it at this moment. – ColleenV Jun 15 '15 at 21:37
  • +1 for the research you've done! Sadly, not everyone does it. – M.A.R. Jun 15 '15 at 21:48
  • @M.A.Ramezani Thank you! you know that we can use wildcard (*) when we know only part of phrases, for example: "which, respectively, * whether" – Ahmad Jun 16 '15 at 4:38
  • 'relevant to' is what my mind accepts, no matter what! At times, you just need to ask yourself...which one looks natural? – Maulik V Jun 16 '15 at 5:08
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IMO, it is a confusion between usage of 'to' and 'for' with relevance of something.

Although 'to' is mostly used after relevant, in some cases 'for' is also used.

We also use a subset of XPath axes which are relevant to our purpose. (Most frequent use)

Normally, 'for' is used when the object of relevant is directly implied (not stated), therefore, in your example, it looks relevant!

We also use a subset of XPath axes which are relevant for our purpose.

We can write the same sentence like this:

We also use a subset of XPath axes which are relevant (to something) for our purpose.

Here, 'something' will act as an object. Therefore, we can say that if an object of relevant is stated, then we can put 'to' after it.

Hope this helps.

  • I think in the phrase relevant to something, that thing is actually our purpose. So we can simply replace it with the phrase our purpose. This explains the outnumber of relevant to vs relevant for – Ooker Feb 23 '17 at 11:22

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