Any writer worth their salt knows the importance of having a dictionary handy and nearby. There are countless situations where you need a little help to find the right word that perfectly describes what you want to say.
Moreover, there are other scenarios where you know the right word but want to use one of its synonyms.
Maybe, you’ve already used the word on your mind too many times, and you would like to use something else just to spare the reader needless repetition.
After all, one of the fastest ways to lose your readers is to come across as redundant or monotonous.
I know I have faced the problem of overusing certain words or phrases, sometimes without even noticing it.
For instance, there are some words, such as conjunctions and prepositions, that you use to connect your writing together and make a piece feel coherent.
Yet, occasionally, I would overuse some of these connective words and only realize it as I was editing.
One of the phrases that have given me trouble in the past is “in order to.” I am guilty of using it more than I should, especially when I am focusing on the motives and reasons behind the actions I am describing.
So, to remedy the situation, I decided to use my dictionary and find as many synonyms to this phrase as I could.
Here is what I found.
What are the synonyms of “in order to”?
“In order to” is used to indicate causality. We use it to show why someone did what they did. Ergo, any conjunction, coordinating or otherwise, can be used in its stead. Here are a few examples: “So that”, “to”, “because”, “for the sake of”, “as”, “that one may”, “for.”
However, each one of these alternatives may behave differently when placed inside of a sentence, and you should know how to use them individually.
But, let’s start with the simplest question first.
How to use “in order to”?
Anytime you are trying to indicate causality, you are attempting to show how one thing led to another.
More aptly put, you want to illustrate that something was the reason for something else.
This means that you have two separate clauses and that you are trying to tie them together using a conjunction of sorts.
This abstraction is important as it will come in handy very soon.
What part of speech is “in order to”?
Now, before we can discuss how you should use “in order to,” you need to understand which part of speech it forms.
To begin with, it is an idiomatic phrase, and the best synonym you can find is probably “so as to.” (You’ll see why “so as to” is the closest synonym shortly)
Now, even though “in order to” is technically a compound preposition, one that is followed by an infinitive phrase, it actually functions similar to a subordinating conjunction.
Yet, strictly speaking, it isn’t a subordinating conjunction because it isn’t followed by a dependent clause. After all, “in order to” is followed by an infinitive phrase, which doesn’t contain a subject.
An example will clear things up.
He trained hard in order to be the best.
In the above sentence, “be the best” is an infinitive phrase, and it doesn’t contain a subject because it is implicitly understood that the subject here is the same subject of the main clause, the person who is training.
”In order that,” the older brother
It is followed by a subordinate clause, also known as a dependent clause, one that contains both a subject and a verb.
She trained hard so that she could make it into the Olympics this year.
With this in mind, when you compare “in order that” with “in order to,” you will find a few things.
First of all, although “in order that” is more formal, it is wordier and comes across as stuffier.
Additionally, this older brother often requires us to either use a modal auxiliary or the subjunctive form of a verb.
Here is what the subjunctive would look like.
He told the truth in order that he be able to sleep with a clear conscience.
As a result of this wordiness as well as the occasional need for the subjunctive, which never sounds easy on the ears, people tend to use “in order to” far more frequently than they use “in order that,” even in formal writing.
How to use “in order to”
You probably use “in order to” in an instinctive fashion, without giving the whole thing much thought.
However, if you truly want to master the synonyms and alternatives, we need to take a closer look.
“In order to” is used to combine two clauses together that have the same subject.
The clause that highlights the reason for the action in question loses its subject, turns its verb into the infinitive, and comes after “in order to.”
Let’s take a look at a few wrong examples before we look at correct ones.
He wanted to pass his exam in order to study hard.
The above sentence doesn’t make much sense, does it? With the clauses inverted and the main action placed after “in order to,” the sentence seems jarring.
He studied hard in order to he pass the exams.
“In order to” has to be followed by an infinitive verb, and the subject has to be dropped. With neither of these things happening here, the sentence seems obviously wrong.
He studied hard in order to passed the exams.
Again, using the past tense after “in order to” is wrong.
This is the correct sentence (see below).
He studied hard in order to pass the exams.
Interestingly, “in order to” can come at the beginning of a sentence just as well. Its placement in a sentence isn’t as important as making sure that everything else we’ve mentioned so far is upheld.
In order to pass his exams, he studied hard.
Why “so as to” is a perfect synonym for “in order to”
Not only does “so as to” mean the same thing as “in order to,” but it also forms the same part of speech, a compound preposition followed by an infinitive phrase. Ergo, everything we said about “in order to” applies equally to “so as to.”
The girl took out her keys so as to open the door.
And, “so as to” can also come at the beginning of a sentence.
So as to open the door, the girl took out her keys.
Furthermore, you have the subordinating conjunction “so that” that pretty much acts like “in order that.”
She took out her keys so that she be able to open the door.
She took out her keys so that she may open the door.
As you can see, you have to either use a modal auxiliary or the subjunctive form.
What about “in order”?
Before we start looking at synonyms for “in order to,” we need to make one last stop.
While “in order to” and “in order that” have the same meaning but different usages, “in order” on its own has a totally different meaning altogether, one that has nothing to do with causality.
“In order” can be used to refer to the sequence or arrangement of something.
For example, you could say, “I need to list my possessions in order.”
It also means that something is in good condition or good operation. A common statement you have probably heard before is “I need to get my affairs in order.”
Finally, “in order” can mean that something complies with the rules and legislations. If you ever try to get a legal permit in the US, you must make sure first that all your papers are in order.
More Synonyms of “in order to”
There are many more synonyms of “in order to.”
So, we will methodically approach this task.
We will look at different parts of speech and search for synonyms there, starting with coordinating conjunctions.
A coordinating conjunction is used to tie two independent clauses together and to show the relationship between them.
There are seven main coordinating conjunctions, those that can be found in the word “fanboys,” and two of them can be used to indicate causality.
“For” can be used to establish causality. The reason behind a certain action, i.e. the clause that explains the action, comes after “for.”
She worked hard in order to succeed.
She worked hard, for she wanted to be a success.
As you may notice, when both clauses are placed in the same sentence, “for” is preceded by a comma. However, you can also start a new sentence with “for” and follow it by a comma.
She worked hard. For, she wanted to be a success.
It should be highlighted that bringing the coordinating conjunction “for” and its clause before the action clause is wrong. You can’t say the following.
For, she wanted to be a success. She worked hard.
The above sentence is jarring and would put off any reader.
Coordinating conjunctions need to come between the two independent clauses, tying them together. You can’t treat them as you would subordinating conjunctions.
“So” is another coordinating conjunction that can indicate causality.
However, the relationship is different here. With “for,” the cause came after the conjunction, but when it comes to “so,” the main action is the one that comes after the coordinating conjunction and is preceded by the cause.
He wanted answers, so he asked her for the truth.
He asked her for the truth, for he wanted answers.
Do you see the differences between these two sentences?
And, you can always start a sentence with “so.”
He wanted answers. So, he asked her for the truth.
We briefly touched upon subordinating conjunctions as we were talking about “in order that.”
All you need to know is that a subordinating conjunction ties a subordinate clause with an ordinate one. Despite the fact that a subordinate clause contains both a subject and a verb, it cannot stand on its own and needs an independent clause to clarify matters.
When I was telling her the story.
This is an incomplete sentence.
What happened while you were telling her the story?
When I was telling her the story, I remembered what it was like to be there.
Bearing this in mind, here are a few subordinating conjunctions that help show causality.
This is possibly one of the most famous subordinate conjunctions out there. The reason for the action comes after “because.”
They went to court because they felt that they were unjustly treated.
If you’re paying attention, you may have noticed that I didn’t put a comma before “because.”
The reason is that subordinate conjunctions don’t take a comma before them when they come at the end of a sentence.
However, if they come at the beginning of a sentence, you should put a comma after their clause.
Because they felt they were treated unjustly, they went to court.
“As” can be used to talk about temporality or causality.
As we were unpacking, they knocked on our door.
Here, “as” is a subordinating conjunction that plays a temporal role. It is telling us that two actions happened at the same time.
They knocked on our door as they wanted to know whether we were ready to leave.
In the above sentence, “as” shows causality. It is letting us know that the reason they knocked on the door was to know whether we were ready to leave.
Ergo, when you want to use “as,” you should place the reason after it as the subordinate clause while keeping the main action as the main clause. “As” can also come at the beginning of a sentence.
As we were unsure, we chose to keep our options open.
Here is another well-known subordinating conjunction, especially among mathematicians and people familiar with rigorous proofs.
“Since” behaves in the same way as “as” and “because,” which means you can replace every causal subordinating conjunction we’ve talked about so far with “since.”
They went to court since they felt that they were unjustly treated.
Since they felt unjustly treated, they went to court.
They knocked on our door since they wanted to know whether we were ready to leave.
Since they wanted to know whether we ready to leave, they knocked on our door.
Conjunctive adverbs are used to tie two main clauses together, but they are not the same as coordinating conjunctions.
While coordinating conjunctions can put two independent clauses within the same sentence, conjunctive adverbs create two separate sentences.
Yet, the relationship between these two sentences becomes clear thanks to the conjunctive adverb.
He read the book. However, he didn’t understand any of it.
You can also use a semicolon to tie the two sentences together.
He read the book; however, he didn’t understand any of it.
Conjunctive adverbs can also be used to show how two paragraphs relate to one another.
Here are a few conjunctive adverbs that can give the same meaning as “in order to.”
”Hence,” “As a result,” “Therefore,” “Thus,” and “Consequently”
All these conjunctive adverbs behave in the same way, so it makes sense to look at all of them simultaneously.
They all are used to show causality, but the main action comes after them whereas the reason comes before them.
Let’s look at a few examples.
Adam started practicing in order to get ready for the competition.
Adam wanted to get ready for the competition. Hence, he started practicing.
Adam wanted to get ready for the competition; consequently, he started practicing.
You can replace any of the conjunctive adverbs in the above sentences with any other one from the list, and the sentences would still make sense and be correct.
Prepositions can be used to tie two main sentences together by omitting the subject from one of them. After all, this is what “in order to” does.
These prepositions may be followed by infinitive verbs or participles.
In either case, the preposition plus the ensuing phrases act as a prepositional phrase that functions as an adverb and modifies the verb in the main sentence.
Prepositions followed by infinitive verbs
“In order to” and “so as to” are two examples that fall into this category. However, the simplest preposition that belongs here is “to,” with no frills added.
He went to the park to skate.
He went to the park in order to skate.
As a matter of fact, most style guides, including online ones, will recommend that you replace “in order to” with “to” whenever you can. It is less wordy and easier for the reader.
Prepositions followed by a participle
A participle is the form of the verb that ends in “-ing” or “-ed.” That said, for our purposes, we will focus on those ending in “-ing.”
The prepositions in this category are followed by participial phrases, yet they convey the exact same information as those in the previous category.
Some examples include “for the sake of” and “in hopes of.”
They did the extra coursework for the sake of passing the class.
In the above sentence, “for the sake of” is a complete phrase that ends with the preposition “of.” This preposition is then followed by the participle “passing.”
He finished his book in the hopes of appeasing the publishers.
Using no words at all
Believe it or not, you can also indicate causality without ever having to use any conjunctions or prepositions of any kind.
Take a look at the following sentence.
She worked hard, hoping to become a success.
What we did here is that we turned the other sentence, “She hoped to become a success,” into a participial phrase that acts as an adverb and modifies the verb “worked.” It tells us the reason behind her hard work.
Obviously, to do this, you need to omit the subject in the second sentence.
You can also invert and bring the reason before the action.
Hoping to become a success, she worked hard.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.