"The cook cooks for us."
Translation:Kocken lagar mat åt oss.
I agree, "för" just doesn't sound right. There are two good prepositions to use here, "till" and "åt". "Till" points to a recipient, somebody will receive the food. "Åt" can have that meaning too, but it can also have the "beneficiary" meaning, meaning "somebody does something so that another person doesn't have to". In this sentence "åt" could carry both meanings, but the first interpretation would probably be the same as for "till".
I'm gonna answer it as a Portuguese speaker, but as the grammar of Portuguese and Spanish are pretty similar, it should be pretty much the same idea for both languages. If you say "Ella lee para mí", she is reading for you because she wants to, like when your mother tells you a fairy tale for you to sleep. However, when you say " Ella lee por mí", you were supposed to be reading that, and she is reading for you to not need to read it as well. You could think of "por" as "in place of". Again, although I used a Spanish example, I'm a Portuguese speaker, so feel free to correct me if I made any mistake!
för is the 'audience preposition' in Swedish. In English, you say I show something to someone, in Swedish, that would be Jag visar något för någon. In English, The girl sings to her cat, in Swedish, Flickan sjunger för sin katt. If the cook cooks for you in English, you can say either that Kocken lagar mat till oss or Kocken lagar mat åt oss.
Till is the preposition we use most often for giving something 'to' somebody. Jag köpte en present till mamma 'I bought a present for my mom'.
Jag gav den till henne. 'I gave it to her'.
I realize this thread is old but I'm still having trouble with this. From what's been said above and other examples I can think of, it seems like maybe when to use till/åt vs. för has something to do with the physical presence of an object. I think I read another discussion on a sentence involving buying a book for someone or giving a book as a gift, and that sentence used till as well. So maybe something can be 'for' someone using för only if it's ... intangible? (Or maybe if doing it "for" you and "to" you are the same, like singing for/to your cat - the participation or acceptance of the recipient here is not necessary for that statement to be true.) But if there's an actual object intended to be transferred you use till/åt? (I definitely can't tell the difference between till and åt in these situations though - if I can just figure out för vs. till/åt I'll worry about till vs. åt later.)
Can you translate as examples the best way to say "I read to her" and "I read for her" and also a sentence about 'giving' an abstract concept, like "I would die for you"? Maybe that can help us illuminate things a bit.
It doesn't have to do with the physical presence or tangibility of an object. Jag skrev en sång till min mamma 'I wrote a song for my mom' and Jag köpte en blomma till min mamma 'I bought a flower for my mom' both work the same – the object is something that will be given to a recipient, tangible or not.
On the other hand when you say Jag sjöng en sång för min mamma 'I sang a song to my mom', your mom is an audience so we use the preposition för. Things done for audiences of course are typically (always?) intangible but that's not the reason behind it.
And when your mother is a beneficiary you can say Jag skrev ett brev åt min mamma 'I wrote a letter for my mom' – implying that you wrote it so that she doesn't have to – but if she's the recipient, you'd say Jag skrev ett brev till min mamma – she'll get the letter.
For your last example, doing something 'for someone's sake' is för någons skull in Swedish. In this sense, using för often works too, like in English. jag är beredd att dö för … 'I am prepared to die for …' whatever.
Have you read the thread above? för is used when you produce something that will be consumed by someone. Like "Flickan sjunger för sin katt" where the girl produces a song and her cat consumes a song. åt is used when you do something instead of someone else like "Kocken lagar mat åt oss". The latter means that we should have cooked something but the cook came and said "Hey, I'll do it for (instead of) you".