Student or Learner
He asked a passenger nearby and made sure this train was indeed headed to Tateyama.
(H. Murakami; 1Q84)
Can I use 'to' instead of 'for' all the time?
Then how do you know where to say 'to head to'?
My dictionaries insist that I use 'to head for' all the time and use 'to' only in 'to head back to'. Therefore I fail to see how 'to' in the sentence in question fits this.
***** NOT A TEACHER *****
(1) Until I read your post, I had never thought about this matter before.
(2) As one excellent (and courteous) teacher has often told us learners:
there are rules, and then there are native speakers.
(3) With the utmost respect and humility, I should suggest that your dictionaries
may be slightly mistaken.
(4) Of course, I visited Professor Google ("books" section). Here are a few examples
of how native speakers actually use the language:
(a) Tatiano got back on a train headed for Nizhy Novgorod.
--The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons (2011)
(b) The freight train stood headed to the east.
-- The Pacific Reporter (1888)
(c) Another train headed to Baltimore.
-- The [Abraham] Lincolns. (2006)
(d) afraid to ask if the train is headed to Paris.
-- Raymond Carver (2009)
(e) Trains heading to St. Petersburg and ultimately to Moscow.
-- Frommer's Europe by Rail (2011)
(4) Oh, yes, there were many examples with "for," too.
(a) There are people who think that "for" is more common, but "to" is
also considered correct by many native speakers. And native speakers
are the final judges, aren't they?
But of course there is a hierarchy of native speakers and whose who are at the top dictate the others how the language should be used.
However, this time and age their power is coming down as there exists a well-known community called the Internet in where languages modifies quicker than any of those judges would expect.
Funnily enough, isn't it ?
Language change is not controlled by those at the top of the pile- the future of the language is to be found in the playgrounds of primary schools.