How does one know which of these three idioms to use?
Does an undergraduate apply for a graduate program or to it?
Does a job applicant apply to a company or with it?
The following examples illustrate mistaken use of “apply for” and “apply with” in contexts calling for “apply to”:
Winston is applying for the teaching program at Harvard.
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This is the idiom to use when you are putting yourself forward as a candidate for something such as a course of study, or a job. You apply to graduate school. You apply to a company for employment. You apply to a bank’s loan department for a loan.
This is the expression to use if your intention is to obtain something. You apply for scholarship money. You apply for admission. You apply for a job.
The word with in this idiom implies agency, the means “by which” you apply. You can apply with the click of a mouse. You can apply with a printed application. You can apply with a program like Compass, or a service like Monster.
The correct usage for the three examples given above:
Winston is applying to the teaching program at Harvard.
Interested in applying to the world’s largest retailer?
Customer Service Careers | Apply to DISH
Here are some other uses of the verb apply, with and without dependent prepositions:
apply paint to a surface
apply ointment to a wound
apply oneself to one’s studies
apply a cause to a quarrel
apply a remedy to a problem
apply a rule to a situation
apply pressure to a wound
apply pressure to a person
apply one’s talents
apply a patch to a garment