A Corpus Investigation of In Order To With Relevance To Indonesia’s Secondary Curriculum in English

Arisandy, Department of English, Kent State University

Editor’s note: Articles appearing in The Cardinal are not peer reviewed and only edited for grammar, spelling, and message.


Table 1. Information about the target learners of ‘in order to’

Target learnerMiddle school students
First languageIndonesian
Age range15-16
ProficiencyNovice high – Intermediate low

In 9th grade, students need to be able to use more complicated forms of language. One of the targeted competencies is to use phrases and clauses of English (Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan, 2018). Regarding nouns and verb phrases, the students need to be able to produce basic sentences with proper form, use, and meaning of the phrases in the sentences. In the level of clauses, the students need to understand and use the main and subordinating clauses in complex sentences. According to Engelkamp and Rummer (2002), “syntactic factors serve to transport meaning” (p. 354). When the students deal with a complex sentence, they have to be aware that the selection of the subordinating conjunction determines the semantic aspect of the sentence. For example, “I will come to your party because you invite me” means more like reasoning than conditioning because of the subordinating conjunction ‘because’. When we change the subordinating conjunction ‘because’ into ‘if,’ the meaning will be conditioning and reasoning. Therefore, seeing the important needs for this knowledge, students should be taught to properly use subordinating conjunctions in many domains.

Particularly, in the 2018 revised textbook of English for Indonesian ninth-grade students, ‘in order to’ constitutes Chapter 2 about giving advice (Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan, 2018). The students are expected to apply the social function, the text structure, and the linguistic features of transactional texts expressing the purpose or intent of doing something in which they contain ‘in order to.’ 

For this corpus study project, I focused on the subordinating conjunction ‘in order to.’ I took this to address the issue of confusion about the use of this conjunction. When it comes to daily conversation, it is not as popular as the words ‘to’ and ‘for’ in terms of expressing the purpose of the sentence. It is seen as quite long to use and sounds more formal. Furthermore, on the side of the writing aspect, the use of ‘in order to’ is still considered redundant and less effective because it can be well represented by the word ‘to.’ Not to mention, Grammarly (2023) notices that ‘in order to’ is too wordy and suggests that users replace it with ‘to.’ Therefore, finding out valid information about the frequency and context of the word ‘in order to’ is entailed. This investigation addressed two questions:

  1. How frequently is ‘in order to’ used in different registers?
  2. What are the contexts of usage and lexical trends?


To address these questions, COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English) was selected with regard to its one-billion-word corpus. Besides, it is more feasible to analyze this way, it is also to represent the frequency and register of the subordinating conjunction ‘in order to’  in American English contexts that are also relevant to ESL/EFL English learners.


Frequency in the different registers

Based on Figure 1 taken from COCA, ‘in order to’ has been used 91, 548 times in the last three decades. It is mostly used in academic journals in which it is 24,010 times. The second and places of frequency are website and blog contexts. In my observation, it is because blogs and websites present written materials about topics that can be related to academic contexts such as business, politics, education, health, and so forth. Therefore, they are also frequently used. On the other side, the least frequency of use is in TV and movie contexts. To my understanding, it is because the materials that are presented on TV and in movies are less formal and related to a field of knowledge directly. Likewise, TV and movies cater to speaking skills in which the actors and speakers interact and prefer using colloquial or simpler language styles.

Figure 1. Frequency of ‘in order to’ in registers

Furthermore, in Figure 2, we can see the frequency across the register. ‘In order to’ is mostly used in the business field, where it is 310.97 per million words. It means that it is said at least 2 times in an hour, considering that it takes 140 hours to produce a million words (Hinkel, 2016). To my surprise, it is also commonly used in philosophy and religion topics and education as well. Since those fields are related to goal/target or purpose, it is not a surprise to see that ‘in order to’ use is dominated in the fields. Eventually, it can be concluded that ‘in order to’ is used mostly for academic contexts, writing skills, and internet-based media.

Figure 2. Frequency in fields

Context of usage and lexical trends

Figure 2 above shows that ‘in order to’ is used mostly in geography and social science in the amount of 4122 times during these three decades, with 20% of the entire use of ‘in order to.’ The details of the percentage are presented in the diagram below.

Figure 3. Diagram of “in order to” in geography/social science contexts

33% of the issues discussed in Graph 3 above are about anthropology, while 1% talks about CATOJournal which is focused on environmental issues. I observe that most people use ‘in order to’ in the anthropology contexts of refugees, communities, and youth. These issues have been an interest to researchers, bloggers, and articles on the internet since 1990. However, by looking at the lexical trend, the usage in geography/social science is cut off by that of business, as we can see in Graph 2. ‘In order to’ is used 310,97 per a million words, which means it is used twice in an hour. The usage in the business field denotes that more academic products are produced in the field in recent years.

In Graph 4, it can be seen that most were used in 2016. It informs the reason why the lexical trend for this conjunction arises. Based on the graph, the economic conditions influenced the rising trend of ‘in order to’ uses in business to tell the readers about a purpose in a more professional way. During this decade, the development of insurance and business journals has led people to talk about targets or goals. As the meaning of ‘in order to’ is to address a purpose (Cambridge Dictionary), the use of this subordinate conjunction cannot be avoided in formal and academic contexts. 

There are some reasons why the frequency of ‘in order to’ is way below the preposition ‘to.’ First, using ‘in order to’ seems longer than using ‘to.’. Even some online dictionaries or proofreading applications and websites consider it to be replaced with ‘to’ (Grammarly; Paperpal). Second, the formal or academic register attached to it makes it used for specific occurrences only. Third, ‘to’ is used for more than 25 million (COCA, 2022). In my understanding, it is because ‘to’ is not only used for expressing purpose as ‘in order to,’ but it can be used as a preposition to form adverbials and becomes one of the most common prepositions in English (ThoughtCo., 2019). Fourth, the only meaning of ‘in order to,’ i.e. expressing purpose explains why it is far different between ‘in order to’ and ‘to.’ Lastly, only people who are not sure of using ‘to’ rightly prefer using ‘in order to’ because it only refers to a purpose.

Figure  4. The usage of ‘in order to’ for business contexts.


Subordinating conjunction ‘in order to’ may seem not more crucial to be used in discourses than ‘to.’ The frequency in COCA (2022) was 91,548 times in all modalities compared to ‘to,’ which was used more than 14 million times as an infinitive marker only. However, in the Indonesian curriculum system, ‘in order to’ is seen as worth being taught to students. It is caused by its use in various contexts, especially in daily conversations. However, it is not validated by the findings in this study that showed ‘in order to’ was primarily used in academic contexts. Henceforth, to see if it is very crucial to be taught to students in middle schools, we need to analyze the frequency of use and fields or contexts of use.  The findings indicated that students of middle schools do not need ‘in order to’ as their focus since its academic context is more on higher education. It was also found that ‘in order to’ can be taught in English for specific purposes for geography and social studies-concentrated students. The trend of ‘in order to’ used in a business context can be a reference for teachers and instructors of English business classes. Conclusively, with the frequency, ‘in order to’ still deserves to be presented in classroom teaching in Indonesia and others, yet, it is recommended for academic purposes in higher education. 


Cambridge Dictionary. (n.d.). In order to. In Cambridge.org dictionary. Retrieved December 4, 2022, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/grammar/british-grammar/in-order-to

Corpus of Contemporary American English. (n.d.). In order to. In English Corpora. Retrieved March 25, 2021, from https://www.english-corpora.org/coca

Engelkamp, J., & Rummer, R. (2002). Subordinating conjunctions as devices for unifying sentences in memory. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 14(3), 353-369.

Grammarly. (n.d.). ‘In order to’. In Grammarly.com. Retrieved on October 28, 2022, from https://app.grammarly.com/ddocs/1913425122

Hinkel, E. (Ed.). (2016). Teaching english grammar to speakers of other languages. ProQuest  Ebook Central https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan. (2018). Buku guru bahasa Inggris: Think globally act locally (3rd Ed). Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan.

Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan. (2018). Buku siswa bahasa Inggris: Think globally act locally (3rd Ed). Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan.

Kenneth Beare. (2019, May 26).  How to Use the Preposition ‘To’. ThoughtCo. Retrieved on November 2, 2022 from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-use-preposition-to-1211798

Paperpal. (n.d.). In order to. In Paperpal.com. Retrieved on November 2, 2022 from https://edit.paperpal.com

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