'This is the kind of grade up with which my dad won't put.'


The lexical unit “to” as a preposition, an adverb and a particle (also as an element of set expressions like in “to and fro”) is usually learnt by foreign speakers in a few meanings, most common of which are the direction, contact (“with his forehead pressed to the window”), position (“to the right/left of…”), time relations (“from three to eight…”), etc. However, there are some interesting points of its usage which, being not so frequent, are a must with a professional linguist.

  1. The English word “to” is related to the German “zu” and may be used in the function reminding you of German verbs with detached prefixes (“trennbare Verben”): <Pull the door to! = Close the door!> <The door blew to = the door swung/clicked shut> <He put the horses to = he harnessed the horses>
  2. “TO” used as an adverb can mean a return to the state of activity of activeness: <The patient came to = The patient regained his consciousness>, <He sat down to lunch and fell to = … and started eating with great relish>
  3. In the dialect usage: <Where’s he to?—He’s to town/to home>
  4. <His hat is on the wrong side to = he has put on his hat with the back side forward>
  5. A special nautical usage “to/into the wind” = in the direction from which the wind is blowing <Keep her to! = Orient the ship against the wind> <The gale having gone over, we came to>

Less “exotic” examples are: <eight apples to the kilo>, <twenty-seven hryvnia to the dollar>, <a scale of one centimeter to 50 kilometers>, <thirty miles to the gallon>, <three to the fourth equals eighty-one= …three to the power of four…>, <the key to the door>, <a solution to the problem>, <exceptions to the rule>, <the British ambassador to Ukraine>

  1. While the both phrases “He did it FOR him” and He did it TO him” are grammatically correct, FOR implies something positive and TO something negative.
  2. Compare WITH or compare TO?

In general terms, either preposition is correct, but the choice depends partly on meaning and partly on grammar. In addition, American English generally prefers to when there is a choice, whereas in British English the two different constructions are more evenly spread.

Let’s look first at the meaning of each phrase. To compare can be defined broadly as ‘to estimate the similarity or difference between things’. For example:

Individual schools compared their facilities with those of others in the area.

It is difficult to compare our results to studies conducted in the United States.

In this meaning, either preposition can be used.

However, when compare is used to say that one thing resembles another, or to make an analogy between two different things, to is obligatory:

Her novel was compared to the work of Daniel Defoe.

He compared children to young trees, both still growing and able to be shaped.

Intransitive uses

British English prefers with when compare is used intransitively, because similarities are being evaluated:

His achievements do not compare with those of A. J. Ayer.

No other English painter can compare with Sutherland in the subtlety of his vision.

In American English, however, compare to is possible and slightly more frequent:

None of those birds compare to L.A. pigeons.

No, today’s calamities don’t compare to the Great Depression or even to the agricultural troubles of the 1980s.

Compared to…

When the past participle  compared introduces a subordinate  or phrase, the preposition is either to or with, although here usage is moving in favour of to:

This was a modest sum compared to what other people spent.

Compared to physics and astronomy, cosmology is a young science.

However, compared with the USA and Japan, Europe contains a group of separate nation states.

Comparable, comparison

Comparable is used with to or with in line with the previous information, with a marked preference in current usage for to:

We find ourselves in a situation comparable to mediaeval times.

Social mobility is, in fact, comparable with most countries in Europe.


Comparison as the noun equivalent of compare can be followed by either with or to:

Poussin’s approach bears closest comparison to Michelangelo’s.

Prices for real estate in Tbilisi cannot stand comparison with Western capitals or indeed Moscow.

The phrase in comparison to is more often used than in comparison with, but by comparison with is more frequent than by comparison to



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