20

In the sentence-

You must wear a suit to an interview

shouldn't the to be replaced by for? Or what's the difference between these two here?

  • When it comes to prepositions, there is a lot of crossover in meaning or usage. Rather than just ask A or B, you should give your rationale for using them in your context. The interview could be a location (to) or an event (for), but I can't tell which meaning you intend. – user3169 Jun 29 '16 at 20:00
  • The former makes me think you need to be wearing a suit to an interview while the latter makes me think you could possibly be denied an interview if you don't wear one. "To" seems like helpful advice from someone outside of the interview while the "for" sounds like a mandate from someone involved in the interview. – Richard Tuttle Jun 29 '16 at 22:39
  • @RichardTuttle "for an interview" could indeed mean something like "to receive an interview", but to vs for doesn't affect whether it's advice from outside or mandate from someone involved. – eques Jun 30 '16 at 11:00
  • While both sentences mean basically the same thing, using 'to' has a potential implication that you can take the suit off once you arrive at the interview, whereas using 'for' implies you'll be wearing it at the interview and may remove it afterward. No one should make this misunderstanding, but it could potentially be the basis for a joke. – DaaaahWhoosh Jun 30 '16 at 13:51
28

The difference is fairly slight. Some cases you could use either and others one or the other would only work.

To would be used for a location or an event (could imply motion)

For would be for a purpose, benefit, etc

The trick is that a location/event is often a purpose; your purpose is to go to that location/event. With verbs ("to wear to run"), the trick is that some words can be both verbs or nouns (e.g. run as a noun is an event of running). In these cases, both may be grammatical, but slightly change the meaning.

Examples:

You must wear a suit to the wedding

You must wear a suit for the wedding

Either of these works because a wedding is either the event or the purpose for wearing the suit.

You must wear shoes to the bank

Bank is a location so this works.

You must wear shoes for the bank

This still could make sense, but it would be somewhat less commonly used than to the bank.

You must wear boots for safety

Purpose, so it works

You must wear boots to safety

This doesn't make sense.

You must wear a hat to garden

versus

You must wear a hat for gardening

You cannot wear a hat "for garden"; for in this case would expect a noun, which then needs an article ("a garden" or "the garden") and would now be a location.

If you say

You must wear a hat to gardening

You've changed the meaning slightly; gardening is now an "event" as opposed to an intended action (purpose).

  • I think you're getting at the right concept: 'to' is for locations, 'for' is for events or processes. If the thing is both, use either. But some of the specific examples aren't great. I'm going to do something at the bank, so going to the bank is a process, so I could be told that I need shoes "for the bank". This might mean that I won't be allowed in the bank without shoes. – DCShannon Jun 30 '16 at 18:49
  • 1
    "for the bank" does work although it seems less likely to be used in practice. I've expanded definitions and added examples when using with a verb complement. English can be rather flexible. – eques Jun 30 '16 at 19:19
  • +1, I agree. Super flexible. Important to get that across in these answers. – DCShannon Jun 30 '16 at 19:21
  • Strictly speaking, "you must wear boots to safety" does have a grammatical meaning, but a dramatically different one: if you are currently in an unsafe location, and you're heading towards a safer one, you can say that you're heading "to safety". If there's jagged ground in between, you may want to wear boots to there. ;) – neminem Jun 30 '16 at 19:47
  • @neminem that meaning is possible, but it's not real likely. I'd expect to have "wear boots to get to safety" for that meaning – eques Jun 30 '16 at 19:51
6

Because we can conceptualize the interview either as an event or as a proceeding, we can say either:

Should I wear a suit to the interview? (event)

Should I wear a suit for the interview? (proceeding)

A matador might say:

I am going to wear my best brocade for the bullfight.

and a person who plans to attend the bullfight as a spectator might say:

I am going to wear my Viva el Toro t-shirt to the bullfight.

  • 1
    For both of your last two examples, swapping to and for doesn't alter the meaning at all. – eques Jun 29 '16 at 19:19
  • The matador does not wear his brocade to the bullfight. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 29 '16 at 19:27
  • Does the bride wear a bridal gown to her wedding? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 29 '16 at 19:28
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    Sure he can. If he's wearing the brocade for the bullfight, he can wear it to the bullfight. – eques Jun 29 '16 at 19:28
  • 2
    Likewise for the bride. She can wear her wedding dress to her wedding or for her wedding. – eques Jun 29 '16 at 19:29
2

You must wear a suit to an interview.

This is okay, because you will go to an interview. It's just like

You must take a suitcase to an interview.

We would use "for" in sentences like

You must be prepared for an interview.

  • 1
    +1. Though we could ask "Should I dress casually or formally for the interview?" – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 29 '16 at 19:06
0

I would regard the preposition to as indicating time/place, while the preposition for would indicate purpose. Consider the following sentence:

"Because you will be proceeding straight from the interview to a wedding reception, you will need to wear your suit to the interview".

If people with whom you're interviewing might not particularly appreciate your suit (depending upon the circumstances, they might have preferred that you wear work clothes that could tolerate getting dusty), you wouldn't be wearing the suit for the interview. Nonetheless, you would still be wearing the suit to the interview because you would be wearing the suit at the time/place where the interview would occur.

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