“Important to” is used when something is personal to you(subjective) and “Important for” is used when something is valuable to achieve something.
This degree is important to me. (it holds personal value)
A degree is important for your career. ( it is helpful for you to achieve your next goal).
In the first example, the degree holds personal meaning in the person’s life. Other common examples of things that hold personal value are clothes, antiques, opinions, actions. By using the preposition “to” you are showing that the object has a personal connection to you, rather than something that just needs to be done.
This blouse belonged to my grandmother, it is important to me.
Marriage is important to me.
We use the preposition “for” with important when something needs to happen. “For” often explains the reason/cause something is important.
Exercise is important for your health.
Often, we don’t explain the reason but it is implied.
Exercise is good for you. (it is implied that it is good for your health)
Important to or important for ME,YOU,HIM,HER,US,THEM?
One confusing part of the difference between important to/for is that both can be used with the object pronouns(me, you, him, her, us, them).
“Important to” is very common with object pronouns because it is the subjective feeling of something valuable.
This city is important to me.(I have a personal connection to this city)
As we saw above “important for” can also be used with object pronouns when the reason for something being valuable is implied.
The exam is important for them.( They need the exam for their progress in school is implied)
When Important to/for are both possible
There are many examples when important to and important for are both possible. Remember, we use“to” when we want the meaning to be more personal and subjective and “for” when we show the reason for the importance.
Driving is important to me. (It is something I love, it gives me my freedom)
Driving is important for me. (I need it for my career)
Let’s look at some more examples and decide if they sound natural.
- My children’s education is important to/for me.
- Water is important to/for my animals.
- Good design is important to/for me.
- It is important to/for you to learn English.
Now let’s discuss the differences and possibilities:
In this example, I would use “to”. There is usually an emotional connection to your children’s education that you want them to do well and it is also connected to your own experience.
When you use “important for me”, it is often possible to explain the reason of the importance with a verb. My children’s education is important for me ….. to show…
In this example, it doesn’t really make sense to explain the reason or have a further objective. A possible example would be “ My children’s education is important for me to show off to other parents”.
“Important for” is possible but not very likely.
“Water is important for my animals” is the only possible answer here.
In this example, we need to use “for” because water is essential for life. It is not possible to have a personal connection with water because it is so essential.
We could only use “to” when we use a verb. “Water is important to live”.
Good design is important to/for me.
I think both “to” and “for” are possible here. They don’t really have any significant difference.
It is probably more likely to say “good design is important to me” when you want to show that design is personal to you and design is more important to you than other people.
“Good design is important for me” has a more neutral meaning.
It is important to/for you to learn English.
“It is important for you to learn English” makes more sense. Learning English is something that can help you with your career and communicate with other people. Objectively speaking, it is important.
If you want to show your personal connection to learning English, You can say something like “learning English is important to me”. That is correct too and perfectly acceptable.
I hope that it has become a little bit clearer the difference between important to and for. There are situations where both are possible as you have seen above.
Important to me(subjective, shows personal connection)
Important for me(objective, shows reason/cause)