'Buy Something for Someone' or 'Buy Something to Someone'? | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 3 February 2024)

Buy Something for Someone or Buy Something to Someone: Which One Is Correct?

When learning a new language, it is common to encounter certain patterns that may seem natural sounding but are actually incorrect. One such mistake often made by learners of English is using the pattern buy something to someone.

If you want to talk about paying for something with the intention of giving it to someone, you should use the pattern buy something for someone, or, more simply, buy someone something:

✅ I bought a necklace for Mum.
I bought Mum a necklace.
I bought a necklace to Mum.

✅ We bought a ticket to the concert for our best friend.
We bought our best friend a ticket to the concert.
We bought a ticket to the concert to our best friend.

Did you buy a gift for your sister?
Did you buy your sister a gift?
Did you buy a gift to your sister?

✅ She bought a sweater for her boyfriend as a Christmas gift.
She bought her boyfriend a sweater as a Christmas gift.
She bought a sweater to her boyfriend as a Christmas gift.

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Examples from the Media

If you want to buy a ticket for a friend please make sure that at the time of purchase you enter their email address and name under 'Attendee details' at checkout. The Guardian (2020)

Earlier this year, a frustrated father bought a $3.8 million Paddington terrace for his children in their 20s to help them avoid renting, while another father bought a $4 million house in Chiswick for his daughter. —The Sydney Morning Herald (2023)

And when should you consider—if ever—buying a gift for the boss? —The Washington Post (2011)

Parents who are fans of the series are more likely to buy their children a toy from that movie, Lennett explained. Toronto Star (2017)

Real-World Examples of Misuse

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