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Two sentences taken from First Certificate Language Practice by Michael Vince, 4th edition, p. 104, ex. 4, n° 3, and p. 105, ex. 5, n° 5:

"Excuse me, is this the right way to the station?"

"Am I going the right way for Downwood?"

(to be transformed into, says the key: "Is this the right way for Downwood?")

Why use the preposition 'to' in one case, and 'for' in the other? Aren't a town and a station two places?

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  • I don't understand why the manual wants you to change "Am I going the right way for Downwood?" That's a perfectly fine question. Jan 21, 2014 at 15:17
  • Neither do I, but that's how it is!
    – user58319
    Jan 21, 2014 at 15:33
  • At first I thought the change of preposition was to do with the fact that it is "Am I going the right way?" in one case, and "Is this the right way?" in the other, but then the key reads "Is this the right way for Downwood?", so this cannot be the answer…
    – user58319
    Jan 21, 2014 at 15:35
  • The sentence quoted as "to be transformed" is not Am I going the right way? -- look again. If this isn't a typo, there's your error. If not, you have an incompetent textbook. Give it to somebody you don't like and get a good one. Jan 21, 2014 at 16:38
  • @JohnLawler: the sentence reads "Am I going the right way for Downwood?" but I shortened it to "Am I going the right way?" because I wanted the reader to focus on the part of the question preceding the preposition, as a possible reason why you had 'to' in one case and 'for' in another. I should have used […] to indicate that I was leaving words out. My incompetence! This book is the one all the (or zero article?) English teachers at my high school have agreed on.
    – user58319
    Jan 21, 2014 at 20:07

2 Answers 2

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My inclination is to say that with

Is this the right way to the station?

You are traveling to the station; whereas with

Is this the right way for Downwood?

The train is traveling to Downwood, and you are looking for the train. Within the station, you may be moving in every possible direction, including directly away from Downwood, in order to reach the train. But the point is really that you are not going to Downwood directly under your own power, but rather seeking out something that will take you there.

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  • But since the key gives "Is this the right way for Downwood?" as equivalent to "Am I going the right way for Downwood?", I doubt very much that the person is going there by train, don't you think?
    – user58319
    Jan 22, 2014 at 0:13
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    Since the previous sentence talks about a station, the inference that a train is involved seems reasonable to me. Of course I can't really know without better access to the source.
    – Hellion
    Jan 22, 2014 at 2:03
  • There just is not any context to these sentences, as is often the case in exercises in grammar books, unfortunately.
    – user58319
    Jan 22, 2014 at 8:12
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Perhaps it is parallel to the difference there is between 'going to a place' and 'heading for a place' or 'being headed for a place'?

A CD version of the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English I have in my computer says 'heading for a place' or 'being headed for a place' is "going or travelling towards a particular place, especially in a deliberate way". And the adjective 'deliberate' is defined as "intended or planned".

So, the difference might be that:

  • I have planned an itinerary to go to Downwood, which I am checking on,

whereas

  • I have not planned one to go to the station: I am only going in the general direction of the station, which I am checking on too.

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