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'Apply Something' or 'Apply for Something'? What Is the Difference? | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 18 July 2024)


Apply or Apply For: What Is the Difference

The verb apply can be used in different contexts, and the choice between apply something and apply for something depends on the meaning you want to convey. 

Apply Something

When you use apply followed immediately by a grammatical object, it generally means 'to put something into use', 'to spread or put something onto a surface', or 'to use something in a particular situation':

✅ You need to apply the principles you've learnt in practice.

✅ He applied sunscreen before going to the beach.

✅ We need to apply the new regulations starting next month.

Apply for Something

When you use apply for something, it means 'to formally request or seek something', typically a job, a position, admission, or a permit:

✅ She decided to apply for the manager position.

She applied for admission to several universities.

✅ He applied for a visa to travel to Europe.

Common Mistakes

Mistakes typically occur when people use apply something in situations calling for apply for something:

❌ You can apply a credit card at your bank or through various financial institutions.
✅ You can apply for a credit card at your bank or through various financial institutions.

After graduating, she applied a teaching position at the local school.
✅ After graduating, she applied for a teaching position at the local school.

She applied a scholarship to study abroad.
✅ She applied for a scholarship to study abroad.

In summary, use apply something when you mean to put something into use, spread it, or use it in a particular context, and use apply for something when you are formally requesting or seeking something, such as a job, admission, or a permit.

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Examples from the Media

Apply some math to your favorite literature and you'll come away with a whole new understanding of what makes the text tick. The Washington Post (2017)

Losing weight costs money but I had to invest in myself — and so I applied the same business principles to my weight loss, with goals and action plans. Daily Mail (2020)

Corner stores can now apply for a licence to sell alcohol as part of what the Ontario government has described as "the largest expansion of consumer choice and convenience since the end of prohibition." Toronto Star (2024)

Months away from completing my degree, The Sydney Morning Herald offered eight cadetships. More than 700 people applied for these roles, including some of my classmates. The Sydney Morning Herald (2023)

Practice

Choose the correct option to complete each sentence.

1. She applied/applied for her knowledge to solve the problem.

2. Apply/Apply for the ointment to the affected area twice a day.

3. Many candidates applied/applied for the internship.

4. He applied/applied for the role of project manager at the tech company.

5. Many people applied/applied for the job opening in the marketing department.

6. The coach asked the players to apply/apply for the new strategy during the game.

7. She applied/applied for the stain remover to the fabric before washing it.

8. Apply/Apply for the paint evenly on the wall.

9. I decided to apply/apply for a part-time position to gain some work experience.

10. Apply/Apply for the lessons you've learnt from this course to your daily work.

11. He applied/applied for financial aid to help cover his tuition fees.

12. We're applying/applying for a permit to host the event in the city park.

13. After cleaning your face, apply/apply for the moisturiser generously.

14. He applied/applied for membership at the exclusive club.

15. Before you apply/apply for a credit card, make sure to compare the interest rates and benefits.

16. Make sure to apply/apply for enough pressure to seal the envelope properly.

Answer Key

1. applied    2. Apply    3. applied for    4. applied for    5. applied for    6. apply    7. applied    8. Apply    9. apply for    10. Apply    11. applied for    12. applying for    13. apply    14. applied for    15. apply for    16. apply

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