Is there a difference between these two expressions and should one of them be preferred?


It depends on what you mean by purpose:

  • something that one hopes or intends to accomplish => "to this purpose" (as in "to this end", "to this intent", "to this objective", "to this target", ...)

  • the action for which a person or thing is specially fitted => "for this purpose" (as in "for this function", "for this job", "for this position", "for this task", ...)

For example, you will find both meanings in this gide "The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper":

In scientific studies, the use of this word (significant) implies that a statistical test was employed to make a decision about the data; [...].
Limit the use of the word "significant" to this purpose only.

Organize your presentation so your reader will understand the logical flow of the experiment(s); subheadings work well for this purpose

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    I generally agree, but I don't think you've explained it well. "For the purpose" is saying why something is done. "To the purpose" is a rather literary way of saying that something is relevant, or needed, or in alignment with, some goal. The first example from the link is not relevant, because "to" in that is part of "limit ... to". – Colin Fine Nov 16 '10 at 14:10
  • @ColinFine Would you like to answer anew? I'd be interested in your perspective. – Accounting Nov 18 '14 at 12:21
  • I'm not sure why you are asking me to answer anew, as nothing has changed. VonC's example "Limit the use ... to this purpose only" does not contain the idiom "to this purpose". – Colin Fine Nov 18 '14 at 18:41

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