How to Use Attend to vs. Tend to Correctly

So, you’re writing an email to your colleague talking about a project you need to attend to. Or is it a project you need to tend to? 

Find out what it means to attend to and to tend to. You’ll learn about the two phrases’ similarities and differences and how to use them in a sentence.

Attend to and tend to are synonymous in two senses: (1) to work for or be a servant to, and (2) to apply one’s attention to. This covers most of both phrases’ territory. Where they are not synonymous is where tend to means to have a tendency to.

Tend to may also include an element of care because it means to look after or to take care of. Meanwhile, attend to is more formal since it simply means to be present

How Do You Use Attend to in a Sentence?

The two terms are considered confusables in writing. For example, the writer wisely includes to in this sentence because attend alone could cause confusion:

Those that attend to the long-term energy needs of their companies will gain an edge over those that don’t. [Forbes]

When the to can be dropped without creating confusion, attend on its own carries the same meaning—for example:

Instead, time and again and in appalling weather, he went into no-man’s-land to search for and attend the wounded. [Telegraph]

How Do You Use Tend to in a Sentence?

With tend to, the to more often bears removal. For instance, to is unnecessary in these cases because one sense of tend (without to) is to take care of:

Animal Control worked with the man to reduce the number to the legal limit of three, then left him to tend to his pets. [Chicago Tribune]

Her maternal urge to tend to her baby trumps the physical pain she has to endure. [Herald Sun]

The above examples can also use attend to instead of tend to since they both mean to work or be a servant to. 

However, the sentences below use tend to to mean to have a tendency to.

  • I tend to forget all my tasks when I don’t write them down.
  • Nowadays, women tend to marry at a later age. 
  • Many people tend to see this issue in black and white.
  • Her friend tends to dramatize everything he sees. 
  • Children tend to experience motion sickness. 

What is Another Word for Attend to?

Here are synonyms for the term attend to:

  • Tackle.
  • Address.
  • See to.
  • Take care of.
  • Look after.
  • Deal with.
  • Cope with.
  • Manage.
  • Turn attention to.
  • Handle.
  • Apply oneself to.
  • Grapple with.
  • Contend with.
  • Get stuck into.
  • Sort out.
  • Get to grips with.
  • Get cracking on.
  • Get weaving on.
  • Focus on.
  • Address oneself to.
  • Have a go at. 

In Review

Attend to is more common than tend to when you are referring to the act of applying one’s attention to. You can use any of the two terms, although attend to is more formal. Tend to has another definition that is not synonymous with attend to, and it’s to have the tendency to.

What other phrases confuse you? How about cloth vs. clothes? Learning about easily confused words can help elevate your writing!

1 thought on “How to Use Attend to vs. Tend to Correctly”

  1. thanks, great explanation on attend to and tend to; however, on the last example I’m not sure. is it saying we can say “… to tend his pets” and ” … to tend her baby …” and it would still be ok? please explain, thanks.

    Reply

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