How to Use the Preposition 'To'

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'To' is one of the most common prepositions in English. The preposition 'to' also a part of the infinitive form of the verb. For example, these are all infinitives:

To do
To play
To sing

Infinitives can be combined with other verbs such as hope, arrange, want, etc.

I hope to see you next week.
Tom arranged to have his sister picked up at the airport.
Your sister wants to help you understand mathematics.

The preposition 'to' is also used as a preposition of movement or direction. 'To' is sometimes confused with 'at' or 'in'. Both 'at' and 'in' show the place, but 'to' shows movement to this place. For example:

I live in Boston. Let's meet Tim at the town center for lunch. BUT I drove to Boston. We walked to the town center for lunch. Here is a summary of the uses of the preposition 'to'. Important prepositional phrases with 'to' are also used as discourse markers beginning sentences to link one sentence to the next.

The Preposition 'To' for Movement

Use the preposition 'to' when indicating that there is movement from one place to another. In other words, the preposition 'to' with verbs such as drive, walk, go, hike, fly, sail, etc.

We're flying to San Francisco on Thursday for a meeting.
We thought we should walk to the bakery for breakfast because it is such a beautiful day.
The captain sailed to the closest port.

It should be noted that the preposition 'to' is never used with the verb 'arrive' even though it indicates movement. Use the preposition 'at' with the verb 'arrive'

I arrived at work early in the morning.
The children arrived at the park to meet their friends.

'To' as Time Expression

The preposition 'to' can also be used to refer to time in the same sense as the time expressions 'till' or 'until'.

Meridith worked to (OR until, till) five and then left.
We're going to wait another three weeks to the end of the month.

'From'/'To' Time Expressions

When a starting time and a finishing time is mentioned, use the preposition 'from' to express the beginning and 'to' for the end.

We usually work from eight in the morning to five o'clock.
She played the piano from ten to twelve.

'To' in Phrasal Verbs

The preposition 'to' is also used in many phrasal verbs. Here is a short list of some of the most common:

look forward to something
object to something
appeal to someone
boil down to something
get to something

I look forward to seeing you soon.
Peter objected to the way he acted.
That car really appeals to Susan.
It boils down to this: You need to work hard.
Just a moment, I'll get to that subject soon.

'To' as Infinitive of Purpose 

The preposition 'to' is used as an infinitive of purpose to mean 'in order to'. For example:

I spent some money (in order) to get some help.
Susan hasn't worked so hard (in order) to give up!

Linking Phrases With 'To'

The preposition 'to' is also used in a number of common phrases to link ideas, often at the beginning of a sentence.

To a great extent

'To a great extent' begins or ends sentences expressing that something is mostly true.

To a great extent, the students work hard in this school
I agree with Tom's ideas to a great extent.

To some extent

'To some extent' is used to express that something is partially true.

To some extent, I agree with the ideas introduced in this discussion.
The parents are at fault to some extent.

To begin/start with

'To begin/start with' is used to introduce the first element in a discussion with many points.

To begin with, let's discuss the problems we've been having in the classroom.
To start with, I'd like to thank you for coming tonight.

To sum up

'To sum up' introduces a final review of the key ideas in a discussion.

To sum up, we need to invest more money in research and sales.
To sum up, you think that it's all my fault!.

To tell the truth

'To tell the truth' is used to express an honest opinion.

To tell you the truth, I think Doug is not doing a very good job.
To tell you the truth, I'm tired of listening to politicians tell us lies.

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Beare, Kenneth. "How to Use the Preposition 'To'." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Beare, Kenneth. (2023, April 5). How to Use the Preposition 'To'. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "How to Use the Preposition 'To'." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).