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To Me vs. For Me


To Me vs For Me
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Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we will answer a question from Maria, a teacher from Brazil, about the difference between “to me” and “for me.”

Question:

Hello,

If I am asking a student to read in class, should I say “to me” or “for me?” I would to know which one is correct.

Could you read it to me? or

Could you read it for me?

Thanks a lot,

Maria

Answer:

Dear Maria,

Thank you for writing to us. Both of these questions can be correct. The choice of “to me” or “for me” depends on the meaning you would like to express.

In the examples you sent us, “to” and “for” are both used as prepositions. Prepositions are a word or group of words that is used with a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to show physical direction, location, time, or to introduce an object.

“To” and “for” in the examples you sent are used to introduce an object, but the meanings are different.

We will take a closer look at these differences.

To me

“To” is used to show the physical direction of an action. But in your example, the use slightly changes.

Could you read it to me?

In your example, “to” is used to show who the action of reading is directed towards.

The object of the preposition is “me”, receiving the action of reading.

It is like asking:

Could you direct your reading towards me?

You could have also said:

Could you read it to us?

In this example “us” would be the whole class.

For me

The preposition of “for” can have many meanings.

Could you read it for me?

The preposition of “for” in this example means “in place of,” “to help,” or “on behalf of.”

“Me” is again the object of the preposition.

So, instead of you reading a story, you are asking the student to read a story in place of you or to help you by reading it.

Summary

If something is directed towards you and you are receiving the action, use “to me.”

Another example is:

Could you bring my science book to me?

Here you are asking someone to bring your book to you. You will receive it and take it with you.

But if you ask,

Could you bring my science book for me?

you are requesting that someone brings your book in place of you bringing it. They will take it with them to class, instead of you taking it.

“For me” is used if you are asking someone to do something on behalf of you, in place of you doing it, or to help you.

Please let us know if these example s and explanations have helped you, Maria!

What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at [email protected]

And that’s Ask a Teacher.

I’m Faith Pirlo.

Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.

Do you have a question for the teacher? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

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