Meaning of “to” in the English Dictionary

"to" in British English

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uk strong /tuː/ weak // /tu/ // us strong /tuː/ // /t̬ə/ /tu/

to preposition (INFINITIVE)

A1 used before a verb to show that it is in the infinitive

A1 used after some verbs, especially when the action described in the infinitive will happen later:

She agreed to help.
I'll have to tell him.
Sadly, she didn't live to see her grandchildren.

A1 used after many verbs of agreeing, needing, and wanting:

I need to eat something first.
I'd love to live in New York.
That child ought to be in bed.

A2 used instead of repeating a verb clause:

"Are you going tonight?" "I'm certainly hoping to."

A1 used in phrases where there are reported orders and requests:

He told me to wait.
Did anyone ask Daniel to reserve the room?

A1 used after some adjectives:

It's not likely to happen.
Three months is too long to wait.
She's not strong enough to go hiking up mountains.

used after some nouns:

He has this enviable ability to ignore everything that's unpleasant in life.
This will be my second attempt to make flaky pastry.

A clause containing to + infinitive can be used as the subject of a sentence:

To go overseas on your own is very brave.
My plan was to get it all arranged before I told anyone.

A1 used after question words:

I don't know what to do.
Can you tell me how to get there?

A2 used with an infinitive to express use or purpose:

I'm going there to see my sister.
This tool is used to make holes in leather.
To make this cake, you'll need two eggs, 175 grams of sugar, and 175 grams of flour.
He works to get paid, not because he enjoys it.

You can introduce a clause with a phrase containing to + infinitive:

To be honest (= speaking honestly), Becky, I like thegrey shirt better.
To tell you the truth, I never really liked the man.

A1 used with an infinitive after 'there is' or 'there are' and a noun:

There's an awful lot of work to be done.
to be going on with UK

To be going on with means in order to continue with the present activity or situation:

Do we have enough paint to be going on with, or should I get some more while I'm out?

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to preposition (SHOWING DIRECTION)

A1 in the direction of:

We're going to town on the bus, okay?
We went to Prague last year.
I asked someone the way to the town centre.
You can walk from here to the school in under ten minutes.
I asked Kirsten and Kai to dinner (= invited them to come and eat dinner with me) next week.
We received another invitation to a wedding this morning.
I had my back to them, so I couldn't see what they were doing.
She walked over to the window.
He went up to a complete stranger and started talking.
UK You've got your sweater on back to front (= with the back of the sweater on the chest).

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to preposition (RECEIVING)

A2 used for showing who receives something or who experiences an action:

I lent my bike to my brother.
I told that to Alex and he just laughed.
Who's the letter addressed to?

A2 With many verbs that have two objects, 'to' can be used before the indirect object:

Give me that gun./Give that gun to me.

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to preposition (UNTIL)

B1 until a particular time, state, or level is reached:

It's only two weeks to Christmas.
Unemployment has risen to almost eight million.
He drank himself to death.
She nursed me back to health.

A1 used when saying the time, to mean before the stated hour:

It's twenty to six.

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to preposition (EXTREME)

used to suggest an extreme state:

Look at your shirt - it's torn to shreds!
She was thrilled to bits.
I was bored to tears.

to preposition (CONNECTION)

B1 in connection with:

What was their response to your query?
She was so mean to me.
There's a funny side to everything.

B1 used to say where something is fastened or connected:

The paper was stuck to the wall with tape.
A fast rail service connects us to the city.

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to preposition (FUTURE)

used before an infinitive, usually with 'be', to indicate a future action:

The government announced today that it is to cut funding for the arts for next year.
See also

mainly UK used in this pattern to say what someone should do or to give an order:

You're not to (= you must not) bite your nails like that.

Newspapers often use to + infinitive without 'be' in their headlines (= titles of articles) when reporting planned future events:

Russia to send troops in.

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to preposition (CONSIDERED BY)

considered by:

I realize it may sound strange to you.
I mean, £50 is nothing to him (= he would not consider it a large amount).
informal "I hear you've been going out with Ella." "Yeah, so? What's it to you?" (= It should not interest you, and you have no right to ask about it.)

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to preposition (SERVING)

B1 serving:

As a personal trainer to the rich and famous, he earns over a million dollars a year.

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to preposition (AGAINST)

against or very near:

Stand back to back.
They were dancing cheek to cheek.

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to preposition (BELONGING)

matching or belonging to:

My dad gave me the keys to his car.
I've lost the trousers to this jacket.

having as a characteristic feature:

She has a mean side to her.
There is a very moral tone to this book.

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to preposition (SHOWING POSITION)

B1 used to show the position of something or someone in comparison with something or someone else:

John's standing to the left of Adrian in the photo.
The Yorkshire Dales are twenty miles to the north of the city.

to preposition (IN HONOUR OF)

in honour or memory of:

I proposed a toast to the bride and the groom.
The record is dedicated to her mother, who died recently.

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to preposition (FOR EACH)

for each:

How many dollars are there to the pound?
This car does about 40 miles to the gallon.
When we go swimming together I do six lengths to her twelve.

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to preposition (AT THE SAME TIME AS)

at the same time as music or other sound:

I like exercising to music.
He left the stage to the sound of booing.

to preposition (POSITIVE)

relating to a positive reaction or result:

When the pasta is done to your liking, drain the water.
I think being at the meeting would be to your advantage.

to preposition (COMPARED WITH)

B1 UK compared with:

She's earning a reasonable wage, but nothing to what she could if she was in the private sector.
Paul beat me by three games to two (= he won three and I won two).
He was old enough to be her father - she looked about 30 to his 60.

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uk /tuː/ us /tuː/

(Definition of “to” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"to" in American English

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us /tu, , /

to preposition (INFINITIVE)

used before a verb showing that it is in the infinitive:

She agreed to help.
I asked her to finish by Friday.
I need to eat something.
I’d love to visit New York.
I want to go now.

"To" followed by an infinitive is used after adjectives:

It’s not likely to happen.
I was afraid to tell her.

"To" followed by an infinitive is used after nouns:

He has the ability to do two things at once.

"To" followed by an infinitive can begin a clause:

To be honest (= Speaking honestly), I prefer the gray skirt.

"To" followed by an infinitive can be used to express requests or orders:

Is it possible to have tea instead?
You’re not to go there by yourself.

"To" followed by an infinitive is used after "how," "what," "when," "where," "whether," "which," "who," "whom," or "whose":

I don’t know what to do.
Can you tell me how to get there?

"To" followed by an infinitive is used after "enough":

I was close enough to touch him.

to preposition (INSTEAD OF VERB)

used instead of a verb clause when answering questions:

"Would you like to go to the movies tonight?" "Yes, I’d love to."

to preposition (FOR)

for the purpose of doing something:

I asked Helen out to dinner.

to preposition (SHOWING DIRECTION)

in the direction of or as far as:

We went to Montreal last year.
I’m going to the bank.
We were in mud up to our ankles.

"To" can be used to show the position of something or someone in relation to something or someone else:

We came face to face in the elevator.
The Rocky Mountains are to the west of the Great Plains.

"To" can show something is on or around something:

Can you tie the dog’s leash to the fence?

to preposition (BETWEEN)

used in phrases that show a range of things or a distance between places:

There must have been 30 to 35 people there.
We got two to three inches of snow at home.
Read pages 10 to 25.
It’s two to three hundred miles from Boston to Washington.

to preposition (RECEIVING)

used for showing who receives something or who experiences an action:

I told that story to Glen.
Who’s the letter addressed to?

to preposition (IN CONNECTION WITH)

in connection with:

They exercise to music.
What was their response to that news?

to preposition (COMPARED WITH)

compared with:

Paul beat me three games to two.
I scored 80 to Talia’s 90.

to preposition (UNTIL)

until a particular time, state, or condition is reached:

It’s only two weeks to your birthday.
We’re open daily from 2 to 6 p.m.
My shirt was torn to shreds.

"To" is used, when giving the time, to mean minutes before the stated hour:

It’s twenty to six.

to preposition (CAUSING)

causing a particular feeling or effect in someone:

To my great relief, she decided against going.

to preposition (CONSIDERED BY)

considered by:

Does this make any sense to you?
Fifty dollars is very little to him.

to preposition (MATCHING)

matching or belonging to:

the top to a bottle
the keys to my apartment
There is a funny side to everything.

to preposition (FOR EACH)

for each of; per:

This car gets about 30 miles to the gallon.

(Definition of “to” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)