In this sentence, would you use "to inform" or "for informing"?

These findings are critical ______ future research

Likewise, would you use "to understand" or "for understanding" in the following?

These results provide a powerful framework _____ existing patterns.

This is a question that comes up a lot in science writing: when do you use the "to" vs. the "for" version of a verb? Is there a word for these two different uses?

And is there a rule for deciding which one is correct? They often get used interchangeably, but I can't find any hard rules for deciding between the two.

People often use the "to" version because it sounds less passive, but I find it more ambiguous and a bit clunky, but I can't find any actual sources to say which is correct.


1 Answer 1


The linguistic structure we are discussing is basically this: Discovery/information ==> informs/enlightens ==> something else.

The former provides something to enable the latter. Generally then, "for" is a good word to describe this relationship. The findings provide something for informing future work. The results provide something for understanding patterns.

"To" can carry some very different meanings, but in this context, I think it actually takes on a meaning that is nearly identical to the "for" phrase. The value of the findings is "to inform". The results help us "to understand". I see very little difference, and don't think it matters much which is used. But I do think that "for" more exactly communicates the relationship the sentences describe.

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