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Key to exercises.

Today I saw the quoted sentence when looking at the keys to exercises, and afterwards that sentence got me thinking why the preposition to is used here instead of for.

The way I see it is that the key purpose is to match our answer with the correct one; hence, for would fit here nicely. Am I right?

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Because keys in the standard sense go to locks. –  cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Aug 9 '12 at 20:33
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I've heard them used interchangeably, so the answer might well be subtle or paved over by misuse. –  rsegal Aug 9 '12 at 20:50
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If I'm understanding this question correctly, I would simply use the term "Answer Key" and avoid the preposition altogether. –  J.R. Aug 9 '12 at 20:56
    
I suspect there is a similar principle in effect when stating "the answer to your question is" versus "the answer for your question is", but I don't know if this is indicative of some English rule or just a "fact" of general usage. It reminds me of the difference between por and para in Spanish, though. –  Zairja Aug 9 '12 at 21:02
    
I'm not a native speaker, but I never heard or read "key of something", and I consume quite a lot of english content –  Alex Aug 10 '12 at 13:25

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

As I stated in comment, keys in the standard sense pair with locks. Copies can be made, but in theory, each lock has only one key that unlocks it. See also:

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I'd go for the same expression you indicate, that is "key to"; however, the OP indicated "for" as the preposition of his choice, so your last sentence is not entirely suitable. –  Paola Aug 9 '12 at 21:44
    
@Paola I misread it, thank you. –  cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Aug 9 '12 at 21:51

I can see using “key to” when the “to” is part of a verb phrase. “The key to unlock the door is under the mat.” “The key to understanding the problem was remembering PEMDAS.”

If a preposition and a linking verb are used, perhaps “for” is a better choice. "To stay healthy, the key for me is watching my weight."

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In "the key to understanding the problem", the part after to is a noun phrase, not a verb phrase. To is a preposition there. In "the key to unlock the door", to is part of the infinitive; of course you can call it a verb phrase if you must, but that's unnecessarily misleading. It looks like you opted for the term only to have a convenient (but wrong) hypernym. –  RegDwigнt Nov 15 '12 at 19:45

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