What preposition should we use to start a sentence where we first explain a purpose and then a method to achieve it?

Example 1

Purpose = pass the exams

Method = study a lot

  • In order to pass the exams, you have to study a lot.

  • To pass the exams, you have to study a lot.

  • *For passing the exams, you have to study a lot. (incorrect - see accepted answer)

Example 2

Purpose = find an object in the database

Method = run a SQL query

  • In order to find the object in the database, users have to run a SQL query.

  • To find the object in the database, users have to run a SQL query.

  • *For finding the object in the database, users have to run a SQL query. (incorrect - see accepted answer)

  • 1
    I've also noticed "for to" being used, especially by Irish people: "I studied a lot for to pass the exams". I don't know whether they would begin a sentence with "For to..." or whether it's generally accepted as correct.
    – Nefrubyr
    Commented Sep 17, 2010 at 10:58

5 Answers 5


"For passing" and "for finding" are not correct. "In order to" and "To" are correct, but I favour "To" because it is more concise:

To pass the exams, you have to study a lot.

To find the object in the database, users have to run a SQL query.

A more natural way of saying this is:

You have to study a lot to pass the exams.

Users have to run a SQL query to find the object in the database.

  • 5
    +1 for "To" in place of "In order to". I had it explained to me once, "Describe an instance where "In order to" would have a different meaning than "to". Can't do it? Then why are you using the longer version?
    – JohnFx
    Commented Sep 16, 2010 at 14:02
  • 1
    It is also more concise to say "must" instead of "have to".
    – kajaco
    Commented Sep 16, 2010 at 16:25
  • 2
    "In order to" adds a little bit of redundancy and thus makes the sentence less likely to be misparsed. "He boarded a flight to Brazil in order to escape the law" Commented Sep 17, 2010 at 3:24
  • Could you explain why “for passing” and “for finding” are not correct? Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 8:05
  • I think the word to has different implications for surrounding verbs. I found this thread after observing ambiguity in the following sentence. 'Lithops, Namibian and South African plants that have evolved to look like stones.' These do in fact look like stones, but did they evolve in order to look like stones?
    – Eric Roper
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 20:12

According to BBC World Service, in order to "sounds a bit more formal and explicit" than to.


"In order to" specifies that the phrase which follows it is not the subject of the sentence, prompting the reader to be on the lookout for the subject which occurs later in the sentence.

For example take the sentence "To err is human, to forgive, divine." In this sentence "To err" is the subject of the sentence, and cannot be replaced by "In order to err".

Now consider the sentence "In order to communicate the utility and safety of the product the most effective phraseology varies wildly depending on the target audience".

This could be replaced with "To communicate the utility and safety..." and remain grammatically correct, but the reader will initially assume that "To communicate" is the subject of the sentence since it is at the beginning. After reaching the phrase "the most effective phraseology" the reader will realize that this phrase was the subject of the sentence, and will need to go back and re-read the sentence with this new information. Adding "in order to" makes the sentence feel more natural and easier to read.


'For to' is used by Irish (and some Scottish people) in place of 'for the purpose of' or 'in order to'. Using your example: 'I studied, for to pass the exam'. Instead of: 'I studied in order to pass the exam'. I have never heard anyone begin a sentence with 'for to' in this way though, it is usually used as a joining phrase to explicitly explain why something was necessary.

I would actually also say that that is the purpose of saying 'in order to' rather than just 'to'. Someone above has said 'in order to' serves no function as 'to' serves just as well. I disagree. In some contexts it underlines the fact a certain action was necessary for the desired outcome.

I.e. 'I studied to pass the exam' vs. 'I studied in order to pass the exam'. In the second example the onus is on the fact that studying was not just something you did because you wanted to pass an exam, it was something you did because it was essential to you achieving your goal of passing the exam. Language is subtle.

  • 1
    I'm not sure it's particularly an Irish/Scottish thing, but it's certainly a declining usage. I think it's just that regional dialects often hang on to forms for some time after they've dropped out of mainstream usage. Commented Aug 22, 2012 at 2:23
  • 1
    This question could be improved by citing facts or references which support your answer.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 14:53

"For to" is a construction right out of nursery rhymes and old songs! I'm going to Louisiana, For to see my Sal (Polly Wolly Doodle)

Simple Simon went a-fishing, for to catch a whale

It's old-fashioned, but it has a flavor of other languages (para, from Spanish, for example) and views on how one approaches doing something. Not a must do, or a to do, but a for doing.

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