cater for/cater to

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  • CarolSueC

    Senior Member
    USA--English
    I always use "cater to" and have checked the print version of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, which also includes an example using "cater to."
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    In BE, if cater means provide food or other things as required by someone, it is cater for.
    If cater means the same as pander - to satisfy a particular desire or longing - then it is cater to.

    The MW definition suggests a similar distinction in AE.
    intransitive verb
    1 : to provide a supply of food
    2 : to supply what is required or desired <catering to middle-class tastes>

    Though I suppose a lot depends on your feeling when you read the phrase in <...>. It sounds a bit sordid to me :)
     

    SRPGgamer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Hey guys~ Would you mind telling me what's the difference between "cater for" and "cater to"? To me, they bear the same meaning.. I don't if it is true or false.
     

    JoanTaber

    Senior Member
    English Northeast USA
    For me, there is a difference:

    I cater for the catering company; that is, I work for them.

    We cater to people of all ages.
     

    Heredianista

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    My own experience corroborates what JoanTaber posted, and what rovi297 posted on an "English Study" forum page:

    "Cater for sb or sth = to provide food and drinks for a social event
    Cater to sth or sb = to provide the things that a particular type or person wants"


    With only one distinction:
    While I agree that the example of "cater for" offered by JoanTaber works and makes sense, when I hear "cater for," I don't think of an individual working for a catering company. Rather, I think of:
    1. a catering company working for a client, as in: "B's Catering Company caters for ritzy clients", or
    2. a catering company providing a certain kind of service, as in "Our company caters for weddings, banquets, and conferences".

    On the same "English Study" forum page is a definition of cater for that is exactly what it means to me:

    "If a person or company caters for an occasion such as a wedding or a party, they provide food and drink for all the people there: Nunsmere Hall can cater for receptions of up to 300 people."

    However, in researching the phrase, I have discovered that British usage of the phrase "cater for" differs from American usage, as is explained in a post by hly_abc on the same page:

    "In British English, to cater for a group of people means to provide all the things that they need or want. In American English, you say you cater to a person or group of people...

    In British English, to cater for something means to take it into account. In American English, you say you cater to something..."

    Thus, I learned something that surprised me! It's a good day when that happens.

    Best,
    H.
     

    ZacaríasLS

    Senior Member
    English
    They are one in the same. You can't just say that they are diffetent because of their specificity. That is like saying "Let me read to you," instead of saying "Let me read for you." In both instances, the speaker means to read to the person. The only difference being that in the ladder of the two, the person he/she is speaking to can't physically do it. But ultimately, it's the same purpose.
     
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    Chris K

    Senior Member
    English / US
    They are one in the same. You can't just say that they are diffetent because of their specificity. That is like saying "Let me read to you," instead of saying "Let me read for you." In both instances, the speaker means to read to the person. The only difference being that in the ladder of the two, the person he/she is speaking to can't physically do it. But ultimately, it's the same purpose.
    Please look at these examples:

    Do you cater for rich people?
    Do you cater to rich people?


    The meaning of these two sentences, in American English, is not the same. (In British English, there is more latitude in the use of "for.") The first one means "do you provide food, in return for payment, for rich people, (as for instance at a wedding)?" The second one means "do you do things to please or to pander to rich people (such as by treating them better than everyone else)?"

    They are not the same, nor is the meaning of "cater" the same in the two sentences (unlike the examples you cited with "read"). The way we know what they mean, in American English, is whether "for" or "to" is used after the verb.
     
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    ZacaríasLS

    Senior Member
    English
    Again, I see your point, but your making it a lot more complicated than it needs to be. Cater to/for are practically the same; the idea is that whoever or whatever is catering is going to provide some kind of service to another(e.i. a wedding) usually through the prospect of food for some sort of payment. Which, would please the one being catered. So it's implied that who/whatever is pleased by the action of the caterer.
     

    Chris K

    Senior Member
    English / US
    Again, I see your point, but your making it a lot more complicated than it needs to be. Cater to/for are practically the same; the idea is that whoever or whatever is catering is going to provide some kind of service to another(e.i. a wedding) usually through the prospect of food for some sort of payment. Which, would please the one being catered. So it's implied that who/whatever is pleased by the action of the caterer.
    They're not practically the same. No one disputes that the phrases come from the same origin and can occasionally overlap in meaning ("do you cater to/for large parties?" can be ambiguous). But as in the examples I cited, there is generally a clear distinction in meaning.

    Someone who "caters to" does not necessarily "cater" at all, because "cater," without "to," is now only used in the strict sense of providing food for payment at weddings etc. There's a difference between providing "some kind of service" (or showing deference of some kind) and what we mean by "catering."
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    They're not practically the same.
    There seems to be a difference between BE and AE as well as your AE disagreement.
    COED 11th Edition said:
    cater
    verb
    1 British provide food and drink at a social event. >North American provide food and drink for (an event).
    2 (cater for/to) provide with what is needed or required. >(cater for) take into account or make allowances for. >(cater to) satisfy (a need or demand).
     

    Chris K

    Senior Member
    English / US
    There seems to be a difference between BE and AE as well as your AE disagreement.
    Yes, BE speakers seem to be more comfortable with both "to cater to someone's needs" and "to cater for someone's needs." My COED, which is an older edition, doesn't mention the BE/AE distinction but distinguishes between:

    Purvey food --> cater for
    Provide amusements, requisites --> cater for
    Pander (to evil inclinations) --> cater to

    That was for a UK audience, naturally.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I feel that you cater to the repected recipient of your services - We cater to the nobility. Catering for is more a matter of solving a problem. Of course you can regard the recipient of your services as a sort of problem and cater for them. It's the difference between providing a service and doing a job.

    I am not convinced there is an AE/BE difference here: my definition is not so very different from Heredianista's or Chris K's or Joan Taber's.
     
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    ZacaríasLS

    Senior Member
    English
    Ugh, I don't understand why you'll are being so anal about the specifics... Assuming that we are all native speakers, which I am, when reading something that has "cater to," I still understand what's being said in the context. Most native speakers don't carry around dictionaries when a simple discrepancy of to/for is read or heard in order to make sure the "specificity" of what is being catered is ambiguous. I could only see it would be necessary to correctly utilize either "to" or "for" after cater if it was on an English exam in college as English as your major interest of study.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Assuming that we are all native speakers,
    But a large fraction of people who read these discussions are not native speakers and are trying to learn. It does not come naturally to them - hence the desire for those discussing to achieve some sort of clarity, even if that means getting down to the specifics.

    I came to this discussion with a cater for = provide catering services for, while cater to= address all needs of ... I was unaware of these differences of usage, even though context would always allow me to understand the intent of the speaker...
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Ugh, I don't understand why you'll are being so anal about the specifics
    You seem to have missed the point of the forum - it is to help anybody to improve their understanding of English. Had you read the first post properly, you might well have noticed that the OP speaks Hungarian and wanted advice on the specific point of using "to" or "for" with "cater".

    If I hear somebody say "do you cater for the nobility", I would only assume that they were talking about food if I knew they were caterers. I would find it perfectly normal for somebody say "do you cater for disabled children in the nursery?" I would be very surprised if they said "do you cater to disabled children in the nursery?" whereas it would be perfectly natural to hear "do you cater to (or for) the needs of disabled children in the nursery?".
     
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    joy68

    Member
    Polish
    They're not practically the same. No one disputes that the phrases come from the same origin and can occasionally overlap in meaning ("do you cater to/for large parties?" can be ambiguous). But as in the examples I cited, there is generally a clear distinction in meaning.

    Someone who "caters to" does not necessarily "cater" at all, because "cater," without "to," is now only used in the strict sense of providing food for payment at weddings etc. There's a difference between providing "some kind of service" (or showing deference of some kind) and what we mean by "catering."
    Hello Chris K,
    I'm glad I found your explanation! It's perfect.

    I had a problem with this excerpt of text found on a zodiac website. It was saying:

    When a Scorpio caters to you, they are whipped!
    When you're catering to them, it's not that deep.


    I knew it wasn't about necessarily cooking meals for someone special but still I wasn't sure about the exact meaning of it.
    So, now I know that whoever wrote the above text (in cursive) wanted to say that a Scorpio does any thing to make the loved one feel satisfied and happy.... by any means (good food, sex, massage, buying gifts, comforting, hugging, whatever that might be pleasant).

    Am I understanding it correctly?
     

    EdisonBhola

    Senior Member
    Korean
    How about for tastes, such as in music, fashion, or arts. Based on the discussion here, we should say "cater TO different tastes"?
     

    EdisonBhola

    Senior Member
    Korean
    For example, "Our music shop caters to a variety of taste" is correct and "Our music shop caters for a variety of taste" is wrong.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    For example, "Our music shop caters to a variety of taste" is correct and "Our music shop caters for a variety of taste" is wrong.
    No, we would not normally use 'cater to' here in BE. Think of 'cater for' as providing something that is 'consumed'. For example,
    cater for weddings = provide food for weddings
    cater for a variety of tastes = provide sheet music for classics, rock, jazz, honky-tonk ....
     
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    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    Thanks a lot for the clarification of these two phrases, I wonder if I used the phrase correctly and naturally:

    We catered for 40 but only twenty came.
    I expect he will be able to cater to your particular needs.

    Thanks a lot
     
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    Silver, in your second sentence, the correct word is 'to.'

    The issue of catering meals, i.e. preparing and serving them, is an entire red herring. (With all due respect, Andy! :) )

    The meanings of 'cater' that are central to the thread have to do with indulging, pleasing, or providing a type of service or product.
     

    tetulio5

    Senior Member
    Spanish-España
    "The teacher didn't cater for my need"
    <<-Spanish removed->>

    I've just heard in an English grammar video
     
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    Kolridg

    Senior Member
    Russian
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    The issue of catering meals, i.e. preparing and serving them, is an entire red herring. (With all due respect, Andy! :) )

    The meanings of 'cater' that are central to the thread have to do with indulging, pleasing, or providing a type of service or product.
    A strange observation. When did providing meals stop being providing a type of service or product?

    We can't cater to so large number of individual requirements.
    Am I correct in choosing "to" if requirements in question are technical ones for building houses rather than demand for supplying food or other things?
    That would be "cater for" in BE. I'd also expect "... so large a number ..."
     
    A strange observation. When did providing meals stop being providing a type of service or product?

    { Kolridg said: We can't cater to so large number of individual requirements.
    Am I correct in choosing "to" if requirements in question are technical ones for building houses rather than demand for supplying food or other things? }

    {Andy said} That would be "cater for" in BE. I'd also expect "... so large a number ..."
    This last point of yours, as I read it, does NOT sound good in AE: We can't cater FOR so large a number of individual requirements.:confused:
     
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