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As a speaker of American English, I would tend to interpret sentence 1 to mean something like this:

- Our center does catering for (provides food for) children between the ages of 2 and 6.

In other words, I tend to understand 'cater for' to be specifically related to the provision of food.

If a broader sense of 'providing whatever is needed or required' is what is meant, I would use 'cater to'.

I'm not sure whether there is any difference between BrE and AmE usage here. I'll ask Bev to chime in.
This must be one of those Transatlantic differences!

As a BrE speaker I find the use of 'cater to' rather strange in that sentence.
I would say:
This centre caters for children ...
However, I would be comfortable with this:
This centre caters for the needs of children ...
(In the latter example, 'to' would not work.)
Maybe not a transatlantic difference.

'Cater for' seems to refer to a contracted service. If the company caters for the children, it might also cater for the corporation annual dinner, for a charity event, etc.

'Cater to' refers to satisfying the wishes and needs of someone or some people. If you cater to the children, you are doing what they want need, and more on an individual basis.

Do you think?
Last edited by Rachel, Moderator
Hello everyone:

Here is what " Oxford Learner's Thesaurus" A dictionary of synonyms says:

Cater for sb/sth is used to talk about either the wide range of things that is offered or particular things that are offered:

To cater for all/ a wide range of ages/tastes/abilities/interests. To cater for individual preferences/children with special needs.

To cater to sb/sth (sometimes disapproving)
To give or offer the things that a particular type of person wants.
The organizations typically cater to the the mass market, tourists, an elite or local tastes


If you cater for sb/sth, you provide the things they need;if you cater to sb/sth you give them whatever they want.
Last edited by grammarcrazed
I am at a library right now and have taken the opportunity to check the blessed OED. Smile

Two definitions are given for the verb cater. The second is labeled as a transferred and figurative use. According to the OED, only "for" is used in the first (primary, literal) sense, and both "for" and "to" are used in the second (transferred, figurative) sense.

However, it compares the use of "cater to" to "pander to": "to subserve or minister to base passions, tendencies, or designs" (Volume XI, p. 130). This supports one of the learner's dictionary comments that Grammar10 cites above: "To cater to sb/sth (sometimes disapproving)." Here are some excerpts from the OED entry:
quote:
cater

1. intr. To act as 'cater', caterer, or purveyor of provisions; to provide a supply of food for.

. . . 1600 Shaks. . . . He that doth the Rauens feede, Yea prouidently caters for the Sparrow. . . . 1828 Scott F.M. Perth xxxii, You were wont to love delicate fare -- behold how I have catered for you. . . .

2. trans. and fig. To occupy oneself in procuring or providing (requisites, things desired, etc.) for.

1700 Congreve . . . What! you are catering (says he) or ferreting for some disbanded officer. . . . 1789 Burns . . . I am still catering for Johnson's publication.

b. occasionally const. to [Cf. pander to.]

1840 Thackeray . . . Catering to the national taste and vanity. 1860 Kingsley . . . Nine years afterwards we find him catering to the low tasts of James I. 1864 . . . Machinery for catering to the wants of the profane and the dissolute.

-- The Oxford English Dictionary (2nd Ed.): Volume II: B.B.C -- Chalypsography, p. 982. Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1989.

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