Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash
After a recent class with one of my students, I wanted to dig a little deeper into the question "when do we use for and when do we use til?" There are some very subtle differences. Here´s what I know.
At your service
Instead of someone else:
If you are doing something instead of someone else (maybe because they are too lazy, sick, or don't have time) then you use for.
Jeg hentede børnene for Mia. Hun havde ikke selv tid.
I fetched the kids for Mia. She didn't have time herself.
Jeg tog opvasken for ham. Selvom det var hans tur.
I did the dishes for him. Even though it was his turn.
Here are two very common expressions
At have brug for noget (To need something/have a need for something)
At være nødt til at gøre noget (to need to do something)
These two phrases are very useful in your every day life.
Here for is paired with brug: Jeg har brug for toilettet (I need the toilet)
Han har brug for dig (He needs you)
And til is paired with nødt plus a verb (whatever it is you need to do).
Nødt indicating necessity: Nødvendig (necessary) / nødvendigvis (necessarily)
Jeg er nødt til at spise (I need to eat)
Hun bliver nødt til at gå (She needs to leave/go)
If you are doing something for somebody as a gift or surprise; or you are sending something, then use til.
Jeg har købt en rigtig fed julegave til Jonas.
I have bought a really cool Christmas gift for Jonas.
Jeg laver pandekager til min mand.
I am making pancakes for my husband.
Jeg sender en pakke til Argentina.
I am sending a package to Argentina.
Are you buying it?
Bought or exchanged:
If you are talking about the price of something you bought or exchanged, use for:
Jeg købte en cykel for 5000 kroner.
I bought a bicycle for 5000 kroner.
Jeg fik en laptop for min iPad.
I got a laptop for my iPad (in exchange for).
If you are talking about the price of something you did NOT buy, use til.
Jeg så en guitar til 2000 kroner.
I saw a guitar for 2000 kroner.
Jeg har set en jakke til 50 kr.
I have seen a jacket for 50 kr.
Are you using it?
To be used for = til:
Har vi nok ris til risengrød?
Do we have enough rice for risengrød?
Er der vand til os allesammen?
Is there water for all of us?
If you are talking about an amount that can fit into something (a capacity) or a function, use til:
Et hus til min familie.
A house for my family.
En elevator til 50 mennesker.
An elevator for 50 people.
Et bord til to.
A table for two.
If there is an audience or performance involved, always use for:
Jeg læste op for min bror.
I read aloud for my brother.
Hun sang for 1000 mennesker.
She sang for 1000 people.
Do you know more ways to use for and til?
Practise by making sentences with the words below.
Laver mad / min kone (Making food / my wife)
Ny bil / motorcykel (New car / motorcycle)
Et brev / farfar (A letter / Grandad)
Dansede / sin familie (Danced / his,her family)
En falafel sandwich / 35 kr. (A falafel sandwich / 35 kr.)
En foldbold / en håndbold (A football / a handball)