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

For example:

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


I bought this sweater for you to wear it.

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

  • 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
  • 1
    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

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.


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.


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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