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Does "so that" and "for ... to" have the same usage?

For example:

I bought this sweater so (that) you can wear it.

and:

I bought this sweater for you to wear it.

Is there any difference between the two expressions or do they have the same meaning?

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  • 1
    For ... to is just the marker of an infinitive: for precedes the subject noun phrase (if there is one), and to precedes the infinitive verb phrase. Most infinitives at the end of the sentence can be understood as a "purpose infinitive", and this is true in the sentence you give. So that is another way of introducing a purpose clause, but it is not at all the same as using an infinitive; that has to be followed by a complete tensed clause. Jun 20 '15 at 18:10
  • They are virtually identical in meaning. The first sounds a little more emphatic in its emphasis 'so that you could wear it'.
    – WS2
    Jun 20 '15 at 19:25
  • Just commenting on the second sentence, in idiomatic UK English we would just say "I bought this sweater for you to wear." The "it" is superfluous.
    – TrevorD
    Apr 16 '16 at 18:45
  • Both your sentences use an adverb dependent clause to modify the verb bought. In the first you can actually write so that because it is a conjunction, and it means —used to introduce a clause that states a reason or purpose-- merriam-webster.com/dictionary/that || the other adverb clause with the conjunction for means : for the reason that, or because, which is different from the first sentence because you bought the sweater only because you want the person to wear it; it’s like if the person doesn’t wear it, you take it back to the store. So it’s like a command. Sep 14 '16 at 1:41
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    These are different grammatical constructions, the first a subordinate clause introduced by the conjunction "so that", and the second an infinitive , both having approximately the same meaning. I think what makes these sentences a little different is "can" in the first phrase.
    – William
    Nov 13 '16 at 3:55
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It seems to me in your example "so that" is a form of rationalization or persuasion. "You may wear it, but you don't have to."

"For ... to" is more of a command or a direct instruction such as "You will wear this sweater because I bought it for you."

Let's try a different example:

Jodi made coffee so that she would stay awake.

Jodi made coffee for herself to stay awake.

Here, The first example is a rationalization. "There are many ways to stay awake, but Jodi chose to make coffee.

The second example is a direct instruction. "The way for Jodi to stay awake is to drink coffee."

Semantics? The explanation above regarding emphasis makes sense.

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Their meanings and distributions overlap, but not totally.

so that

(1) Indicates purpose, necessary condition; in order that, with the result that.

He must die so that others might live.

He must die for others to live.

Indicates purpose, intent; in such a way that, with the intent that.  

He tied a complex knot so that others would find it hard to undo.

*He tied a complex knot for others to find hard to undo.

(Based on Wiktionary.)

There are other similar-looking usages:

He left the dirty dishes for others to wash <==?==> He left the dirty dishes, so that others had to do the washing up.

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They seem synonymous. If you can tease out a difference, it's subtle. If you removed the "it" from the "for" sentence, then there would be a more apprecable difference. "So" would speak more to 'why I did it', and "for" would explain 'what the sweater is for'.

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